A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to one year in the county jail, a combination of jail time and probation that does not exceed one year, a sentence of probation only and/or a $1,000.00 fine. These offenses are tried in county court and are overseen by a county court judge. The judge has broad discretion in fixing the length of a sentence and the size of a fine unless the particular charge has a mandatory sentence.
Some examples of misdemeanor crimes are battery, trespass, petty theft, shoplifting, DUI, solicitation for prostitution, disorderly intoxication, and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. First offenders do not usually go to jail, but the possibility of jail always remains open based upon facts made known to the judge at trial or sentencing that may enhance the seriousness of the offense. While incarceration for a first offense is not the norm, your best outcome will rest on a criminal lawyer who knows all the options available to you.
Many people facing a misdemeanor charge are the kind of people very rarely seen in criminal court. For them, the thought of being arrested and having a criminal record is both disturbing and embarrassing. It is possible to have an arrest cleared through the process of sealing or expunging your record. But this can’t be done unless you have your case dismissed or until you complete your sentence successfully and are shown to otherwise qualify for the benefit of having your record legally erased.
While you may feel that a misdemeanor charge may result in only a small fine and a slap on the wrist from the judge, keep in mind that a criminal record can cast a cloud on your future. While the possibility is slim you’ll spend any time in jail, your life could be impacted by probation, required educational programs you must pay for, attend and complete, fines and court costs, and community service. Under the circumstances, it’s in your best interest to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney. Before making a decision, you should take advantage of the opportunity to find out whether you can afford an attorney or whether you can afford not to have an attorney.
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