You probably know that a misdemeanor is a criminal charge that is less serious than a felony charge. However, that doesn’t mean you should take a misdemeanor less seriously. It’s important to understand the types of crimes that are charged as misdemeanors and the potential consequences you may face if you are convicted.
In Pennsylvania, there are three tiers of criminal charges. The least serious type of charge is a summary offense. These usually consist of a petty crime, which is typically punishable through a fine. A jail term is a rare occurrence with a summary offense. Misdemeanor charges occupy the middle ground, and felony charges can carry the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.
Misdemeanors themselves can be charged at three different levels:
- First-degree: This charge carries a potential penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and an imprisonment term of up to five years.
- Second-degree: This charge is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and an imprisonment term of up to two years.
- Third-degree: You will face a fine of up to $5,000 and an imprisonment term of up to 90 days.
As you can probably guess, the level of degree corresponds with the seriousness of the crime. For example, a first-degree misdemeanor charge may involve a stalking allegation. A second-degree misdemeanor may involve a simple assault. A third-degree misdemeanor might involve a disorderly conduct charge. A third-degree misdemeanor may be charged as a second-degree misdemeanor if you have previous convictions for the same crime on your record.
A less serious penalty does not equate to less serious consequences
While a misdemeanor does not carry the same level of penalties as a felony charge, the consequences can still be far-reaching. A misdemeanor conviction is still a conviction. This means you will have a criminal record. You could find it challenging to find employment and housing. You should always discuss your defense options with a skilled legal professional. Doing so can help you protect your future.