The term misdemeanor gets used a lot in TV and movies, but what does it mean? In the state of Missouri, misdemeanors are considered lesser offenses, more serious than infractions, but not as serious as felonies. Some are only punished with fines, while others result in lost privileges or light jail time.
Differences Between Infractions, Misdemeanors, and Felonies
In Missouri, there are three major groups of criminal offense: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are the most minor type of criminal offense, felonies are the most serious type of criminal charge, and misdemeanors fall somewhere in the middle.
Infractions are minor charges that cannot result in jail time. Because infractions cannot result in jail time, someone accused of an infraction is not entitled to a jury trial or a public defender. Speeding tickets are the most common type of infraction.
Misdemeanors are crimes that are serious enough to result in jail time, but not serious enough to be considered felonies. The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is one year in jail. Because misdemeanors can result in jail time, individuals who are accused of a misdemeanor in Missouri are entitled to a jury trial and a public defender.
Felonies are serious crimes that are punishable by significant jail time. In some cases, a misdemeanor can be upgraded to a felony if the accused is a repeat offender. If you are accused of a felony, you should contact a criminal defense attorney.
Maximum Penalties for Misdemeanor in Missouri
There are misdemeanors on both the federal level and state level. In the state of Missouri, misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of one year, and are divided into four classes of severity. Class D is the lowest, class C and class B are more serious, and class A is the most serious form of misdemeanor. Each has a maximum jail time and a maximum fine.
- Class A misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and up to a $2000 fine.
- Class B misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and up to a $1000 fine.
- Class C misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail and up to a $750 fine.
- Class D misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.
The actual sentence handed out depends on the severity of the crime and the discretion of the presiding judge. Sentences can be suspended with or without parole. Some misdemeanors will be upgraded for repeat offenders; the misdemeanor class can be increased or the misdemeanor can be upgraded to a felony. All misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of one year, meaning criminal prosecution must start within a year of when the crime is committed.
Examples of Crimes That May Be Misdemeanors in Missouri
DUI / DWI
In Missouri, driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are part of the same charge. If an individual has not previously committed a DWI, they may only be charged with a misdemeanor if they are accused of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Misdemeanor drug crimes can include possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. The laws can be complex, especially due to the interplay between municipal, state, and federal laws.
Assault and Battery
Assault and battery covers far more than physical assault. It also includes threats of physical violence, some reckless behaviors, and touching people in inappropriate ways. Depending on the specifics, assault and battery can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor tampering, second-degree tampering, includes a variety of crimes. Unlawfully riding in a vehicle, tampering with utilities, and tampering with another’s property are all examples. There are also more serious forms of tampering that can be charged as felonies.
The crime of property damage is more commonly referred to as vandalism. Depending on the amount of property damage caused by the vandalism, it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Institutional vandalism is also known as institutional property damage. Institutional vandalism includes the act of damaging certain types of institutional property, or damaging ground or property connected to certain types of institutional property. In Missouri, religious structures, graveyards, and school buses all qualify as institutional property. Depending on the amount of value of the damages caused as a part of the crime, institutional vandalism can count as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
A person commits arson when they damage or destroy a building with a fire or explosion. If the damage is caused by reckless behavior, it can be counted as a misdemeanor. The crime is a felony if it involves potential victims, the production of methamphetamine, or a deliberate act.
Trespassing is the act of illegally entering or remaining within a property without permission. Depending on the specifics, such as the property being posted against trespassing, trespassing can be an infraction or a misdemeanor.
Traffic tickets can be issued for infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies related to traffic offenses. Although traffic offenses are common, they can have major consequences, such as the loss of driving privileges.
Though some of those don’t seem serious, and some happen frequently, like speeding, don’t underestimate the impact of a misdemeanor charge. Misdemeanors go on your record and can hamper your ability to get a job or drive, among other things. You shouldn’t let a small mistake ruin your life. You shouldn’t rely on luck; getting legal counsel can make all the difference.
Call Day or Night for a Missouri Misdemeanor Attorney
KC Road Lawyers offers free consultations to individuals accused of misdemeanor crimes. Call 816-425-2420 or navigate to our contact page to find out how KC Road Lawyers can help you with your Missouri misdemeanor.