State Crimes

Petty Misdemeanor Offenses

Petty misdemeanor offenses are criminal offenses that are punishable anywhere from 24 hours to 6 months of incarceration (typically 30 days maximum). Petty misdemeanors may also be punishable by probationary terms and fines up to $1000.

It is often difficult to determine if you have been charged with a petty misdemeanor crime because police sometimes issue citations to a person for petty misdemeanor offenses as opposed to arresting the person.

Some common petty misdemeanor offenses:

  • Harassment
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Promoting a Detrimental Drug in the Fourth Degree
  • Open Container of Liquor in a Public Park/Street
  • Theft in the Fourth Degree
  • Criminal Property Damage in the Third Degree
  • DUI
  • Excessive Speeding
  • Reckless Driving

Petty misdemeanor offenses can be filed in the district court or the family court.

Because petty misdemeanor offenses are not punishable by more than 6 months in jail, you do not have a right to have a jury trial. If you wish to contest the charges against you, all the evidence at the trial will be considered by a judge and he/she will make the decision about the case.

While you do not have a right to a jury trial for petty misdemeanors, you do have the right to be represented by an attorney because all petty misdemeanors carry a potential jail sentence.

Petty misdemeanor offenses are classified as either criminal or traffic. Your first court appearance for a petty misdemeanor offense is arraignment and plea. At you initial court date, you will be informed of the charges being brought against you and the judge will give you time to consult with an attorney and set the case for trial.

You should consult with an attorney if you are charged with a petty misdemeanor because all petty misdemeanors carry a potential jail sentence in addition to possible fines, court fees and probationary terms. Conviction of a petty misdemeanor will also result in a conviction and a criminal record.

State Misdemeanor Offenses

Misdemeanor offenses are criminal offenses that carry a maximum possible penalty of 6 months to one year of incarceration as well as possible fines and fees and possible probationary terms.

Some common criminal misdemeanor offenses are:

  • Assault in the Third Degree
  • Theft in the Third Degree
  • Promoting a Detrimental Drug in the Second Degree
  • Violation of a Temporary Restraining Order
  • Arson in the Fourth Degree
  • Criminal Property Damage in the Third Degree
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Terroristic Threatening in the Second Degree
  • Racing on the Highways

Misdemeanor offenses are filed in either the district court or the family court depending on the relationship between the defendant and the complainant.

Misdemeanor offenses filed in the district court are comprised of criminal cases and traffic cases. For either type of offense, the defendant has a right to have a jury trial. Because of this right, the first court date following your arraignment and plea date is usually designated as the date you either waive your right to a jury trial or request a jury trial. It is imperative that you consult with an attorney before deciding on whether to ask for a jury trial. While there are many benefits to requesting a jury trial, a jury trial is not appropriate for many types of cases. Any attorney you consult with should advise you on whether a jury trial is appropriate for your case.

If you waive your right to a jury trial, your case will be set for trial in the district court before a judge. Remember, just because you waived your right to a jury trial, it does not mean you cannot fight the charges against you. All it means is your case will be heard by a judge of the district court instead of the jury.

If you demand a jury trial, your case will be transferred to the circuit court where the arraignment process will begin again. Your first court date after demanding a jury trial will be for arraignment and plea. At arraignment, you will be given a trial date. If you have requested a jury trial and you case has been transferred to the circuit court, you should already be represented by an attorney so the process can be further explained to you.

Criminal misdemeanor cases can also be filed in the family court. For the family court to have jurisdiction over a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor case, there must be some sort of relationship between the complainant and the defendant. For example, for the charge of abuse of a family or household member, a family or household member is defined as:

“spouses or reciprocal beneficiaries, former spouses or reciprocal beneficiaries, persons who have a child in common, parents, children, persons related by consanguinity, and persons jointly residing or formerly residing in the same dwelling unit.”

Also, in cases involving violations of temporary restraining orders or orders for protection, the criminal charges will likely be filed in the family court if the family court issued the temporary restraining order or order for protection.

If a charge against you has been filed in the family court, your initial arraignment and plea date and any subsequent trial dates will be heard on the 8th floor of the district court.

State Felony Offenses

There are three general categories of Felony Offenses:

  • Class “A” felonies,
  • Class “B” felonies, and
  • Class “C” felonies.

Class “C” Felonies typically carry a maximum possible penalty of 5 years in prison, Class “B” Felonies typically carry a maximum possible penalty of 10 years in prison, and Class “A” Felonies typically carry a maximum possible penalty of either 20 years or life in prison. Depending on the offense and the individual’s criminal record, an individual charged with a felony may be eligible for probation instead of prison. However, someone placed on probation can still receive a significant amount of jail time as a term of their probation.

Pre-trial release and bail issues are handled differently in Felony cases than in misdemeanor cases. Bail amounts in felony cases are generally set higher, and those who cannot afford posting bail can attempt to ask for release without bail by filing a motion for supervised release with the court.

If you are charged with a felony offense, your case will be assigned to a trial judge following your arraignment and plea. A trial week will be set and your attorney should begin working towards the best possible outcome for you. Obviously, felony offenses are the most serious of criminal offenses, and we recommend consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible.

**This website is for informational purposes only. Nothing on this website is meant to be or should be construed as legal advice. Before making any decisions about your case, please consult with an attorney as the facts and circumstances of every case is different.