Many people think of misdemeanors as “minor crimes” that carry “minor penalties.” While a misdemeanor charge is certainly not as serious as a felony, you still could be facing thousands of dollars in fines and months in jail. This can take your life way off track. You could lose your job, lose your family, and find your life completely disrupted, especially if it meets the criteria to be upgraded to a more serious charge, including a felony. It can cost you dearly. You should not try to handle it on your own, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and help you get the best possible outcome for your case.
The Litvak Law Firm has experience in defending all types of criminal cases, including misdemeanors. The firm’s lawyers are proud to have earned their reputation as the misdemeanor attorneys Brooklyn residents have come to trust for a diligent, aggressive defense. Defense attorney Igor Litvak has handled a wide variety of misdemeanor cases — including assault, domestic violence, drug use and possession, theft, DWI/DUI, harassment, contempt of court, trespass, credit card fraud, animal cruelty, child abuse, and many more. The sooner you act and seek legal representation, the more likely you are to have a favorable outcome in your case.
Overview of Misdemeanor Crimes
In the United States, crimes are usually classified under one of two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies and are typically referred to as a “lesser” type of crime. The punishment is also less serious; a monetary fine, a short jail sentence (up to one year), or both. In New York, misdemeanors can range from disorderly conduct or petty larceny to shoplifting to issuing a bad check.
New York law classifies misdemeanors as Class A and Class B. Class A misdemeanors are the more serious of the two and carry the higher sentence. Typically, this means up to a year of jail time. Class B misdemeanors are not as serious and carry a lesser sentence with jail time averaging around 90 to 180 days.
Not all states have the same categorizations for crimes. Even felonies and misdemeanors can vary from state to state. A misdemeanor in New York is considered an act of lower offense or a lesser criminal act. While you may not always have to worry about being sent to prison if you are charged with a misdemeanor, there are other concerns that you should have. A misdemeanor can stay on your record for a long time, up to ten years or more, and impact your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. One thing many people don’t realize is that you do not have to go to jail to have a criminal record.
In some cases, you can get your record sealed, but that is something you are unlikely to be able to do on your own. In some cases, such as with a repeat offender, a misdemeanor can turn into a felony. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor you have nothing to worry about. The law is complex and there are many twists and turns, even when something looks very cut and dry. You need an attorney to handle it for you.
Misdemeanor vs. Violation
Under New York Penal Code Article 10, felonies and misdemeanors are defined, but there are two other offenses as well that are also relevant: Infractions and violations. Understanding each of these offenses helps to put misdemeanors and felonies into perspective. The definitions laid forth by the law are:
“Traffic infraction” means any offense defined as “traffic infraction” by section one hundred fifty-five of the vehicle and traffic law.
“Violation” means an offense, other than a “traffic infraction,” for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of fifteen days cannot be imposed.
These offense definitions help to better define the term misdemeanor:
“Misdemeanor” means an offense, other than a “traffic infraction,” for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of fifteen days may be imposed, but for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year cannot be imposed.
These 16 offenses are considered violations in the state of New York:
- Appearance in public under the influence of narcotics or a drug other than alcohol
- Criminal solicitation in the fifth degree
- Disorderly conduct
- Exposure of a person
- Failing to respond to an appearance ticket
- Harassment in the second degree
- Hazing in the second degree
- Loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense
- Misconduct by a juror in the second degree
- Offensive exhibition
- Promoting the exposure of a person
- Unlawful possession of certain ammunition feeding devices (1st offense/home)
- Unlawful prevention of public access to records
- Unlawfully posting advertisements
Under New York law, violations are not considered to be criminal acts although they may look very similar to misdemeanors and some even carry short jail terms (up to 15 days). However, some offenses, such as trespass can be upgraded to a more serious crime.
Federal or State Misdemeanors?
Federal and state laws regarding crime tend to overlap quite a bit. The key to determining if a crime will be tried as a federal case or a state case typically lies in where it was committed. If the crime was committed in a single state, say, New York, then it is classified as a state crime unless the classification of the offense qualifies it as a federal crime.
This means if the crime violates the state’s criminal law, such as petty theft, false imprisonment, conspiracy, simple assault, public intoxication, and stalking then it is a state law. If it violates federal criminal law, such as hunting, fishing, trapping, disturbance, or injury on wildlife refuges; bribery of public officials and witnesses; and intimidation of voters then it is a federal misdemeanor.
The federal government does have a right under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution to supersede state law and try a case in federal court if the crime fits the definition of both, a federal crime as well as a state crime. This often happens when federal law enforcement has a special interest in the case. In other words, you could commit a crime and think that you will be tried in a state court only to find yourself standing before a federal judge — another compelling reason to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner. The Litvak Law Firm’s attorneys are the misdemeanor defense lawyers Brooklyn residents turn to when they need skilled representation.
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provide guidance on handling petty offenses (Class B Misdemeanor) and other federal criminal cases in the District Courts and General Trial Courts in the United States. Other publications offer additional direction on related issues, such as the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Types of Misdemeanor Crimes
Misdemeanors are crimes, but not as serious as felonies. In New York, they are categorized as Class A and Class B.
Some of the common Class A misdemeanors include: Attempt to commit a class E felony, stalking in the third degree, sexual abuse in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, hazing, sexual abuse, criminal trespass in the second degree, making graffiti, possession of burglar’s tools, criminal mischief, arson in the fifth degree, and welfare fraud.
Some of the common Class B misdemeanors include: Stalking in the fourth degree, reckless endangerment of property, possession of graffiti instruments, rent gouging in the third degree, issuing a bad check, prostitution, public lewdness, harassment, loitering, and criminal trespass in the third degree.
There is a lot that goes into determining the seriousness of a crime. Where it was committed, how it was committed, and who or what it was committed against are all integral to how it is classified. Part of the classification of misdemeanors is whether they were committed against a person or property. This can determine the seriousness of the offense and can even upgrade it to a felony in some cases.
Penalties for Federal Misdemeanor Crimes
Under federal guidelines, misdemeanors are categorized under one of three classifications, Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious while Class C misdemeanors are the least serious. The law sets forth maximum penalty guidelines, but many times the actual sentences fall below them. What’s more, some sentencing will include jail time without a fine, or a fine without jail time. However, it is not uncommon for a person charged with a misdemeanor to be sentenced to jail as well as be required to pay a fine.
Class A misdemeanors get a maximum prison term of 1 year or less, but more than 6 months. The maximum fine is $100,000. A probation term of 0 to 5 years is also possible. The maximum supervised release term for these crimes is 1 year and the maximum prison term upon supervised release revocation is 1 year.
Class B misdemeanors get a maximum prison term of 6 months or less, but more than 30 days. The maximum fine is $5,000 and the probation term is 0 to 5 years. It’s 1 year for both the maximum supervised release term and the maximum prison term upon supervised release revocation.
Class C misdemeanors get a maximum prison term of 30 days or less, but more than 5 days and the fines can reach a maximum of $5,000. Like Class A and B, the probation term for Class C is 0 to 5 years and the maximum supervised release term, as well as the maximum prison term upon supervised release revocation, is 1 year.
If the offense resulted in death, there is an increase in the maximum fine to $250,000.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Crimes in New York
In New York, misdemeanors are classified as either B or A, with A being the more serious of the offenses. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, it will become a part of your criminal record. The general guidelines for misdemeanor penalties in New York are:
Class A misdemeanors – These are the more severe types of misdemeanors and have a stronger sentence, which can be up to a year of jail time in a city or county jail.
Class B misdemeanors – These are the less severe types of misdemeanors and have a somewhat lighter sentence, which can be up to 90 days in a city or county jail.
Fines may also be incurred. Sometimes the penalty may be both jail time and a fine.
Community service is also a common penalty for misdemeanors, as is probation.
When defending a misdemeanor, there are several things that are taken into account. The charge itself is a significant factor because misdemeanors can vary widely. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you need a skilled misdemeanor defense attorney who can look at the charges as well as your background and the events surrounding the incident and find a strong defense for you.
Each case is different. Your case is not like anyone else’s, so a cookie-cutter defense isn’t going to work. A good attorney will sit down, talk to you, and get to know you. He may ask you questions about your background, education, home life, and lifestyle. It is important that you are completely honest with your attorney. He will use the information you give him to find the best defense available and work hard to achieve the best outcome possible for you. You can’t afford to leave your case to chance or just assume that a misdemeanor won’t get you jail time — it can if you are not properly represented by a lawyer who is acting in your best interest, pouring his time and experience into your case.
That is why you need The Litvak Law Firm. We put our clients first and will stand by you every step of the way. If you are being investigated, don’t wait for the arrest, make the call. If you already have charges against you, let us step up and work for you. This is your life and even having a misdemeanor charge on your record can wreak havoc on your future. If you’ve been arrested or are being investigated, make the call today. The law gives you certain rights, but you need a good criminal defense attorney who will protect them for you. Find out for yourself why The Litvak Law Firm’s attorneys are the misdemeanor lawyers Brooklyn residents turn to for skilled criminal defense. Call us at (718) 989-2908 and let us help you get the justice you deserve.