Even though you might not be facing jail time, there are countless other problems that come with being charged with a misdemeanor. For one, the charges will be added to your record, which can limit your working opportunities. Nonetheless, the severity of your penalty will vary depending on your record. Having priors will simply aggravate your situation, whereas clemency is usually given to first-time offenders. That said, whether you have priors or not, it is crucial to know your options after being charged. Here is what you can do.
What is a Misdemeanor?
First, it is important to understand what a misdemeanor is or could be. In contrast with felonies, misdemeanors are lesser crimes that carry lesser punishments. The punishment for misdemeanors does not exceed one year of jail time, not prison, and is usually settled with a fine. If an offender is sentenced to 6 months or less, or fined with $500, it would, then, be regarded as a petty offense. Typical punishments for misdemeanors include community service, probation, part-time incarceration, and a short jail term. Part-time incarceration is a type of sentencing, which could be served during the weekends.
Misdemeanors are put into 3 or 4 different classes, which depend on the state. New York, for instance, only has 3 classes: A, B, and Unclassified. Some states have separated them into 4: 1, 2, 3, and 4. Class A is interchangeable with Class 1, and they share a maximum sentence of 12 months of jail time. Punishments are dramatically reduced as you go down in classes, with some being non-jail offenses. These offenses are payable by fines.
What Happens in a Misdemeanor Case?
More often than not, people will receive a citation that declares they are charged with a misdemeanor. Included as well are date and time, for when you should show up to the arraignment. At the arraignment session, the court will inform you of your rights, the charges, and the possible penalties to expect. Nevertheless, you should show up 15 minutes early. After the arraignment is done, you will decide if you wish to hire an attorney. Naturally, the services of an experienced criminal law firm should be sought for the skill and knowledge they can bring to your defense strategy. The attorney will work on various different angles, which will include improper police lineups and problems with the investigation procedures by law enforcement. If your Constitutional Rights were violated, your attorney will also use that to help you.
What You Can Do
In the event that you make a not guilty plea, you, with the help of your lawyer, will be preparing for a trial. You will begin by collecting all the evidence that supports your case, so be well prepared. The evidence may include physical items and witnesses. Essentially, your lawyer will be collecting the evidence, while you can help them by supplying them with all the information you know.
- Pre-Trial Conference
After this is done, you will attend a pre-trial conference with the prosecution. This is where the case is discussed and your lawyer gets a chance to negotiate a plea deal. If your case is strong, and it is your first time getting charged with a misdemeanor, then your lawyer should have no problem getting the charges dropped. However, if this does not happen, they will most likely get the charges reduced. Your other options can be getting a deferred or suspended sentence. Neither will have you serve a jail sentence. Instead, it will be replaced with community service, probation, and counseling.
Before the trial begins, you may like to visit a courtroom and observe a trial. This will give you some insight into what you should expect, which, with the lawyer’s help, should have you better prepared.
- Attending the Trial
On the day of the trial, you will need to arrive early. This will reflect well on you, as well as giving you enough time to park and find the courtroom. Make sure you look professional and that you are impeccably dressed. That way, you will have the prosecution and the judge treat you professionally. Ideally, you will need to wear a suit and buttoned-up shirt with a tie. Make sure to cover your tattoos, if you have any. Head to the clerk’s office and check-in as soon as you arrive and then report to the courtroom and wait. Once the trial starts, make sure to proceed in an organized fashion.
During the trial, it is best if you include favorable facts about you. This can include having no criminal records, being steadily employed, and mentioning your family and that you are involved in the community. You may then proceed by kindly requesting any alternatives to jail, which you can do by proposing community service. Also, you can avoid jail time by suggesting restitution, which will help the victims as well.
As you deal with your misdemeanors, you will learn that by no account is it an enjoyable experience. It will be daunting. However, with the help of an attorney, the fears will be reduced. They can easily have you avoid the more severe sentencing, Class A. But you will also need to present yourself as well dressed, and become articulate. Remember to approach the entire process with caution.