Misdemeanor Guide

Sentences for Misdemeanors

What is a typical punishment for a misdemeanor? Are they the same in every state? What are some general sentencing guidelines?

If you've been charged (or convicted) of a misdemeanor, or if you know somebody who has, the first thing you should do is look on the bright side - you are very lucky that it is not a felony which generally carry harsher sentences and are more likely to be on your record much longer.

Laws vary by location
Every state has their own set of sentencing guidelines and generally you see a different interpretation of these sentences from county to county (or even from city to city). For this reason you should not rely solely on internet research for your criminal defense - it can give you a good basic understanding, but you need to talk to an attorney who is a member of your state's bar to get real legal advice.

First of all, each state chooses their own classification system. For instance, one state might refer to different classes of misdemeanors as Type A, Type B, Type C, etc. while another state may call them 1'st, 2'nd and 3'rd class. In general, the higher the number or the letter, the less serious the crime. So, for instance, a class A misdemeanor would be worse than a class B misdemeanor and a 1'st degree felony is worse than a 2'nd degree felony.

These classifications usually indicate the maximum sentencing guidelines for each type of misdemeanor (jail time, fines, probation, etc.).

Some states such as California, however, do not classify misdemeanors in these broad categories at all - in California a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor. Sentencing guidelines are determined by the actual charges in states like California.