There is a popular misconception that being charged with a misdemeanor is “no big deal” and shouldn’t be treated as a serious situation. While it is true that misdemeanors are classified as lesser crimes than felonies are, it is nearly just as important to vigorously defend against misdemeanor charges as it is to defend against felony charges.
What Exactly Is a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are generally defined as criminal offenses that cannot be punishable by more than one year behind bars. Most misdemeanor convictions that result in a sentence that include a term of incarceration lead to time behind bars in jail, whereas terms of incarceration for felonies are served in prison. Similarly, while the potential amount of money that someone convicted of a misdemeanor can be fined is less than they could be fined if they were convicted of a felony, the consequences of being convicted of a misdemeanor can still be truly significant.
As an experienced criminal defense attorney – including those who practice at The Morales Law Firm – can confirm, being saddled with a criminal record (any kind of criminal record) can be life-changing. Being convicted of criminal activity can affect everything from your ability to find meaningful employment to your ability to secure housing and credit, from your ability to win a child custody case to your ability to live free of social stigma attached to convictions.
Yes, a misdemeanor is a lesser crime than a felony is. But, being convicted of one can change your life forever. Therefore, it is critically important to approach the work of defending against misdemeanor criminal charges as seriously as possible.
Defending against misdemeanor charges often entails the same kinds of defensive strategies that defending against a felony requires. There are two primary kinds of defensive strategies utilized by attorneys who are defending clients against accusations of criminal wrongdoing.
First, there are affirmative defense strategies. These strategies try to prove that a defendant is either innocent or is innocent “enough” that they can’t be convicted of the offense for which they are being prosecuted. Each crime that is codified in state and federal penal codes contains elements. If any of these elements cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a judge or jury should not be able to convict a defendant of that offense. For example, many trials hinge on the question of intent. Oftentimes, it can be proven that a defendant did take some actions outlined in the elements of a given crime. But, it can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the specific intent required by the penal code.
Second, there are procedural defensive strategies that help to mitigate the risk of a conviction because they generally serve as violations of due process. When evidence is mishandled, if someone wasn’t read their Miranda rights upon arrest, etc., the process of convicting that person becomes much harder because their rights were trodden on. Speaking with an experienced attorney can help you to understand which defensive strategies might serve your situation best.