A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but less than a felony. Typically, misdemeanors can carry a maximum jail sentence of up to 6 months.
Some typical misdemeanors include:
Even though misdemeanor charges are not as serious as felony charges, one should always seek the advice of an attorney if charged with a misdemeanor. A conviction of a misdemeanor will show up on anyone who does a background search on you.
An attorney who has experience in dealing with misdemeanor cases can advise you on your best options. There are many options available to protect you from jail time and expensive fines. An attorney may also appear for you in most cases without you being required to attend.
Stages of a misdemeanor case:
If a misdemeanor case has been filed against you it will play out like this:
The arraignment is when the defendant or their attorney will come to court first. The City Attorney or District Attorney will give what evidence they have against you. The defendant may enter a plea at this stage of guilty, no contest or not guilty.
If the defendant enters a guilty or no contest plea, the judge will find them guilty and then sentence the defendant.
If the defendant enters a not guilty plea, the case will go to the pre-trial stage.
At the pre-trial stage, both sides will exchange discovery. Your attorney may make motions to exclude evidence that the prosecution wishes to use against you. You may also change your plea at this stage to get more favorable sentencing before going to trial.
At trial the defendant accused of a misdemeanor has the right to have 12 members of a jury hear their case and decide if they are guilty. Sometimes cases are heard without a jury and a judge will decide their case. The prosecutor must prove the case against a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the defendant to be found guilty of the crime they are charged with. If motions made at the pre-trial phase to exclude evidence were successful, the prosecutor will be barred from using that evidence at trial.