What Is a Misdemeanor?
Crimes are charged as felonies or misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is a lesser charge. However, do not assume that the punishments for a misdemeanor are not severe.
In California, a misdemeanor can be punishable by up to one year in county jail. Furthermore, the judge could impose other penalties, such as fines, community service, and punishments specific to the criminal offense.
What Are Some Examples of Misdemeanors Under California Law?
Misdemeanors cover a wide range of crimes.
Examples of misdemeanors under California law include, but are not limited to:
- Simple assault
- Driving under the influence without causing injury
- Petty theft
- Drug possession
- Reckless driving
- Domestic violence without causing injury
Most misdemeanors are considered non-violent crimes. Some offenses that cause minor injuries may also be charged as misdemeanors.
California also has wobbler offenses. A wobbler offense is a crime that might be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Typically, a prosecutor will increase a wobbler offense from a misdemeanor to a felony if there are aggravating factors that increase the severity of the offense.
What Types of Punishments Are Issued for Misdemeanor Convictions?
The punishment for a conviction depends on the criminal offense, aggravating factors, and your criminal history. However, most misdemeanors can be punished by fines of up to $1,000 and up to a year in county jail. The jail time and the fines may be less than the maximum fine and jail sentence.
There are other punishments the court may issue. For example, a judge might suspend your driving privileges and require you to attend DUI school for a conviction of driving under the influence.
Judges may also impose summary probation for a misdemeanor conviction. Summary probation could have many conditions.
For example, probation could include:
- Community service hours
- Wearing an electronic monitoring device
- Being on house arrest
- Counseling and anger management classes
- Paying restitution to a victim
- Attending alcohol and drug education and/or treatment programs
- Refraining from consuming alcohol and using illegal drugs
If you violate the terms of probation, the judge may revoke probation and require you to serve your sentence in jail. The judge could also continue probation, but they could add additional penalties, lengthen the duration of probation, and/or increase the severity of penalties.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Misdemeanor Charge in San Jose, CA?
You have the right to legal counsel when charged with a crime. It is always in your best interest to exercise this right. Therefore, the best thing you can do after an arrest is to remain silent, except to ask to speak with a criminal defense lawyer.
Before you decide whether to fight criminal charges or accept a plea agreement, you need to understand your options and legal rights. A criminal defense lawyer will investigate the charges against you, gather evidence, assess legal defenses, and determine if law enforcement officers violated your legal rights.
Your lawyer will advise whether entering a plea bargain is preferable to going to trial based on the state’s evidence against you. A criminal defense lawyer can often negotiate better terms for a plea deal because the lawyer uses mitigating factors and potential defenses to negotiate for reduced charges and penalties. Without a lawyer, you might not realize that the state has a weak case or that you have potential defenses that work in your favor during plea negotiations.
Even if you are innocent, you need a San Jose criminal defense lawyer. Being innocent does not mean you cannot be found guilty of a crime. Never trust “innocent until proven guilty” to protect you from going to jail for a crime you did not commit.
Expunging Misdemeanors in California
Many misdemeanors are eligible for automatic expungement under the Clean Slate Act.
Your misdemeanor may be automatically expunged if the crime is not listed as an ineligible offense and:
- You completed probation without violating any terms
- No criminal charges are pending against you
- You are not required to register as a sex offender
- You are not currently on probation or parole for another crime
If you were convicted before January 1, 2021, you must petition the court for an expungement under California Penal Code §1203.4.
You must meet the following requirements to have a misdemeanor conviction set aside in California:
- The conviction was entered in state court
- You did not serve a sentence in prison
- You completed probation, or it has been at least a year since the conviction if the judge did not sentence you to probation
- You are not currently serving probation or time for another crime
- You do not have a pending criminal charge against you
- You did not violate any terms of your probation
If you are unsure whether your misdemeanor conviction is eligible for expungement or a misdemeanor was not automatically expunged, talk with a San Jose criminal defense attorney.
Contact a San Jose Criminal Defense Lawyer If You’ve Been Charged With a Misdemeanor
Are you charged with a crime? If so, your best chance of beating criminal charges is to build a strong defense. contact the dynamic legal team of Ahmed & Sukaram, Attorneys at Law for a free consultation. Don’t accept a plea deal or plead guilty to a criminal offense without talking to a lawyer