In several legal systems across the world, a misdemeanor is defined as a crime less serious than a felony. This 'lesser crime' includes several different criminal activities, ranging from petty thefts to drunk driving. Those involved in felony are referred to as felons. Likewise, those involved in misdemeanors are called misdemeanants in some jurisdictions.
Misdemeanors usually result in imprisonment and/or a fine. Though these crimes are less serious than a felony, they are still taken into consideration when checking a person's criminal record. Misdemeanants can be punished with probation, short term in local jail, or community work, depending on the degree of misdemeanor. A first degree misdemeanor, for instance, can result in a maximum jail term of 1 year, but a second degree misdemeanor can only result in a jail term of up to 60 days.
What Qualifies for First Degree Misdemeanor?
Most of the jurisdictions have at least two classifications of misdemeanors, first degree and second degree. Some jurisdictions though, have third or fourth as well. A first degree misdemeanor, also referred to as a 'Class A' misdemeanor, is a criminal offense which is penalized with a jail term for up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to a $1,000. Most of these offenses are against humans and hence, are considered more serious than second degree misdemeanors, which amount for a jail term of up to 60 days and a maximum fine of $500. In some jurisdictions, a person who has been charged with second degree misdemeanor for a particular crime twice, can be charged with a first degree misdemeanor, if he repeats the same.
The classification of misdemeanors and penalties associated with a particular degree, tend to differ from state to state and also according to the Federal Law. A crime considered Class A misdemeanor in a particular jurisdiction can be either classified as a second degree misdemeanor or, at times, a felony in other jurisdictions. Given below is a list of criminal offenses which can amount to first degree misdemeanors in most of the cases.
- Disorderly conduct
- Driving Under Influence (DUI)
- Drug possession
- Petty thefts
- Public intoxication
- Reckless driving
- Simple assault
One has to also take a note of the fact that these crimes would be classified into various degrees of misdemeanors depending on which area of jurisdiction they took place in. A petty theft or trespassing, for instance, is a first degree misdemeanor in some states, but second degree misdemeanor in others. Similarly, reckless driving is a second degree misdemeanor in Arizona, but a first degree offense in Florida and Virginia.
Though they are lesser crimes when compared to felony, misdemeanors do get recorded. Such a reference can put you in the bad books of the society and eventually, hamper your personal and professional life. In such circumstances, being aware of the legal implications of these offenses can be of great help for you.