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Misdemeanor Crimes

What is a Misdemeanor Crime in California?

Facing criminal charges in California is usually stressful for anyone without prior experience with the criminal justice system. Most defendants will immediately have questions about the crime for which they were arrested.

Like all states, California has different crime levels, including infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies, which are the highest form and carry the harshest penalties. Many crimes are called a “wobbler” because the prosecutor can file them as either a misdemeanor or a felony. They typically decide on the case's details and the defendant's criminal record. 

Misdemeanor Crime in California
A "misdemeanor" is a crime that the maximum penalty is not over one year in a county jail.

In this article, however, we will focus on misdemeanor crimes and how the criminal courts and prosecutors deal with these charges within the case process. 

A misdemeanor crime is much less severe than a felony crime. It does not carry the possibility of serving time in state prison.  A “misdemeanor” is defined as a crime where the maximum sentence is no longer than one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Still, an aggravated misdemeanor carries a potentially more significant penalty.

Further, anybody convicted of a misdemeanor could be placed on probation for three to five years. In Los Angeles, misdemeanors can be filed by the City Attorney's Office or the District Attorney's Office based on where the crime occurred.  

Once arrested for a California misdemeanor, it will proceed through the normal stages of the criminal case process that include an arraignment, bail hearing, pretrial, and jury or bench trial, but the vast majority of cases never reach a trial as they are dropped through negotiation or a plea bargain.

What Are the Most Common Misdemeanor Crimes?

  • Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC - Domestic Battery;
  • Penal Code 273.6 PC - Violating a Restraining Order;
  • Penal Code 240 PC - Assault;
  • Penal Code 242 PC - Battery;
  • Penal Code 459.5 PC - Shoplifting;
  • Penal Code 484(a) PC - Petty Theft;
  • Penal Code 496 PC - Receiving Stolen Property;
  • Penal Code 415 PC - Disturbing the Peace;
  • Penal Code 602 PC - Trespassing;
  • Penal Code 647 PC - Disorderly Conduct;
  • Penal Code 314 PC - Indecent Exposure;
  • Penal Code 647(b) PC - Prostitution;
  • Penal Code 647(f) PC - Public Intoxication;
  • Vehicle Code 23152 PC - Driving Under the Influence;
  • Vehicle Code 23103 PC - Reckless Driving;
  • Vehicle Code 14601 PC - Driving on a Suspended License;
  • Health and Safety Code 11350 HS - Drug Possession.

As noted, the standard misdemeanor penalties are up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000, but unless stated, any misdemeanor will have county jail time of up to 6 months. Some will carry a fine of up to $2,000.

Many misdemeanors, however, will result in the judge imposing probation only and a fine or community service time. There are a few misdemeanors that have fines up to $2,000.

What About Probation for a Misdemeanor Conviction?

Anybody convicted of a misdemeanor is usually placed on probation and given numerous conditions to follow by the judge, including the following:

  • some jail time,
  • court fines,
  • community service,
  • counseling classes,
  • alcohol or drug classes,
  • electronic monitoring, and
  • victim restitution. 

Any domestic violence case will typically include the court issuing a restraining or protective order prohibiting any contact with the victim. They are also required to keep a certain distance from the victim. 

Misdemeanor convictions usually result in a criminal record that can be seen by potential employers conducting an illegal background search. They would not result in a loss of voting rights or the right to own or possess a firearm unless the conviction is related to domestic violence.

A misdemeanor conviction could result in disciplinary action if you hold a professional license, such as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. For some misdemeanor convictions, such as Penal Code 314 and indecent exposure, you might be required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC. Most misdemeanors can be expunged under California Penal Code 1203.4 if you complete probation.

What Are the Most Common “Wobbler” Crimes?

Wobblers can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony based on different factors. The most common “wobblers” include the following:

Any wobbler can't carry more than one year in county jail, and if the case was filed as a felony, you might be able to have it reduced to a misdemeanor by plea agreement before trial or by the judge's motion.

Contact Criminal Defense Professional for Help

If charged with a misdemeanor crime, you should consult with our experienced California criminal defense lawyers to examine the details of the case and legal options moving forward. We have decades of experience and know how to create an effective defense strategy for your particular charges.

Perhaps we can get your charges reduced or dismissed. Maybe we can negotiate with the prosecutor and law enforcement to avoid the formal filing of charges in the first place. Early intervention into your case by our law firm could dramatically impact the outcome.

Due to our extensive experience in criminal law, we are well known by the local prosecutors and judges in all the Los Angeles County criminal courthouses. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles County, California. We provide legal representation across the state.  You can contact our law firm for an initial case consultation by phone or by filling out the contact form.

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