U.S. law divides criminal charges into several categories in order to make sure defendants are charged according to the crime they have committed. A misdemeanor is the least serious of these charges, the other two being a felony and an infraction. Misdemeanors are further divided into three categories; petty misdemeanor, ordinary misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor. Gross misdemeanors are the most serious type and might result in the defendant having to spend time in jail. On the other hand, petty misdemeanors are minor crimes and usually result in minor punishment.
The law usually gives judges the authority to choose between a misdemeanor and a felony charge. Sentencing for the defendant is carried out according to the charges. In some cases, the judge might decide to sentence the defendant somewhere between the general sentencing for misdemeanors and felonies. For example, a compromise between the two might include an incarceration period and a hefty fine as well. However, some states are strict about their sentencing policies and make sure judges cannot change sentencing according to their own wishes.
The federal government has its own classification of misdemeanors as well; Class A, Class B and Class C. Class A misdemeanors are the most severe and could result in consequences like a year in prison. Class B and C are less severe, and the duration of incarceration decreases from 6 months to 30 days between these two classes. Misdemeanors show up on the permanent record of the defendant as well.
Those who are charged with misdemeanors should consider hiring an experienced defense attorney. The attorney will go through the evidence and come up with a defense strategy to pursue your best possible outcome.