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What are misdemeanor charges?

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Quick Answer

Misdemeanor charges are generally considered crimes that are punishable with up to a year in jail in most states, according to FindLaw. Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions such as jaywalking, but less serious than felonies such as murder. Misdemeanors are minor offenses.

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What are misdemeanor charges?
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Full Answer

Punishment for misdemeanor offenses vary by offense, according to Nolo. Some examples of punishments include fines, restitution, community service, probation or short jail sentences. Sentences may also include a combination of these punishments. Like other offenses, misdemeanor charges are required to receive due process, which means that the accused are entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers. The government must provide legal representation to defendants who are unable to pay for a lawyer on their own.

In some states, misdemeanors are ranked by degree or class. When this is the case, the more serious offenses that fall under misdemeanor labels might be referred to as gross misdemeanors. How severe the crime is helps to determine the punishment doled out during sentencing.

Some offenses are in gray areas and can be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies. These are known as wobbler offenses. For example, an offense that is prosecuted as a felony offense may be downgraded to misdemeanor level as the case moves through the courts, according to Nolo.

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