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A less serious offense than a felony, a misdemeanor may nonetheless involve incarceration and substantial fines. The terminology and sanctions related to misdemeanors vary from state to state.

Misdemeanors Defined

As a general rule, a misdemeanor is a criminal offense that carries a penalty of up to one year in detention. In most instances, the incarceration is in a county jail or similar facility, rather than a prison. Most misdemeanor convictions also require the payment of a fine. Probation, community service and restitution (repayment of the victim’s losses) may be ordered. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you have the right to trial established by the U.S. Constitution.

Examples of Misdemeanor Charges

Often, what differentiates a misdemeanor from a felony is the severity of the crime. For example, theft crimes under a certain dollar amount—typically identified as petty theft or petty larceny—are generally misdemeanors, but theft crimes over a certain dollar amount—grand theft or grand larceny—will be tried as felony offenses. Some minor drug offenses, such as possession, are customarily misdemeanors, unless the evidence suggests that the possession was with the intent to sell, which may make the charge a felony.

Other crimes considered misdemeanors include:

  • Most DUI/DWI charges
  • Shoplifting
  • Vandalism
  • Prostitution

Even though a misdemeanor results in a lesser punishment, it will still appear on your criminal record.