Definition of Misdemeanor

There are three classifications for offenses when it comes to crime.  There are felonies which are the worst of the offenses.  There are infractions which face the least fines and jail time.  Misdemeanors sit right in the middle of the two classes.  Infractions can be things such as traffic violations, while felonies are things such as murder or assault with a firearm.  Misdemeanors include offenses that can be classified as felonies as well as offenses that can be infractions.  This large range makes misdemeanors more interesting to figure out since the crimes included in the list are so widespread.  

Sentencing for Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors, just like felonies, have set punishments that are decided upon by lawmakers in the state of California.  There are a couple of categories for misdemeanors that have different kinds of sentencing, but the exact punishments are already decided.

For standard offenses, the typical jail sentence is six months or less.  For aggravated misdemeanors, the jail sentence can reach the full one year that a misdemeanor can have.  However, the exact amount of jail time will depend on the crime and the person responsible.

Besides jail time, most offenses might have a fine component.  Most misdemeanors will have a lower fine amount, averaging around $1,000.  However, for aggravated misdemeanors, there might be larger fines depending on the kind of crime that is committed.  Sometimes instead of facing jail time, the person convicted of a misdemeanor offense may be sentenced to a fine.  Instead of jail time, they just have to pay the money, and they won’t have to go to jail.

Standard Misdemeanor Offenses

As mentioned before, standard misdemeanor offenses usually only receive six months of jail time.  That is because these crimes aren’t as violent or destructive as aggravated misdemeanors.  There are a number of offenses that count as standard misdemeanors, such as petty theft.  Petty theft is defined differently depending on where you are, but all that matters is that the item taken isn’t too valuable.  If it’s worth less than $500 or $750, then it’s usually considered petty theft.  Anything over that dollar amount is often considered grand larceny.  Larceny would garner a heavier sentence than petty theft and wouldn’t be considered a standard misdemeanor.

Other standard misdemeanors would be things such as disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, or shoplifting.  Some of these charges, such as public drunkenness are included in wobbler offenses that can be decreased to an infraction charge instead of a misdemeanor.

Aggravated Misdemeanors

Aggravated misdemeanors, sometimes known as gross misdemeanors, are offenses that are closer to felonies, but not quite there.  There might be wobbler offenses among this group that moves between aggravated misdemeanor and a third-degree felony.  Misdemeanors can include offenses like DUIs and domestic battery.  Compared to petty theft, these crimes are much damaging to potential victims which is why they get a harder sentence.

Wobbler Offenses

Wobbler offenses are offenses that can be one of two classifications.  This can occur between felonies and misdemeanors or between misdemeanors and infractions.  There cannot be a wobbler that goes all the way from felony to infractions.  It’s just not possible.  However, getting a charge moved from felony to misdemeanor can severely change the kind of punishment that the defendant can face.  However, if someone were to have their charge moved from infraction to misdemeanor, it could mean jail time that they wouldn’t have had to face otherwise.

The wobbler offense is a double-edged sword for the defendant.  It can be used to the advantage of the prosecution, but it can also save the defendant time and money that they wouldn’t have had to deal with.  Even among wobbler offenses, there are ones that incur quite a bit of jail time and a hefty fine.  An example would be assault with a deadly weapon, which can be a misdemeanor.  Even as a misdemeanor, someone could face a fine of up to $10,000.  Compared to the typical fines that come with misdemeanor charges, it is quite a large fine.

Alternative Sentences

Besides the jail time and fines that might be faced by a defendant, a judge may take the option of giving someone convicted of a misdemeanor a probation instead.  Probation for a misdemeanor often includes the same kinds of activities that would be expected for a felony probation.  The probation sentence might include community service, house arrest, counseling or therapy, and victim restitution.  What exactly is included in the probation service will depend on the kind of crime committed and the personal history of the defendant.

Typically, in cases of misdemeanor offenses, judges are more likely to give out a probation sentence rather than jail time.  That isn’t to say that judges don’t give out jail time, but they tend to prefer to give out probation instead.  Often this is because the probation will help the person convicted in the long run.  

Misdemeanor Bail Amounts

When it comes to bail and misdemeanors, there’s quite a range of bail amounts that you will see for a variety of different crimes.  Because misdemeanors sit between infractions and felonies, there is a large range for what kind of bail you might see.  For aggravated offenses, you will see higher bail bonds than for the standard offenses.  Again, bail bonds are a reflection of the case at hand, so two people that commit the same offense will have two different bail bonds most often.

Drivers License

Misdemeanor IDDescriptionBail Amount
12500 (a)Unlawful to Drive Unless Licensed (No License)$100+
14601 (a)Driving When Suspended or Revoked
One Prior Conviction
Two or More Prior Convictions
$1,000+
$2,500+
$5,000+
14601.1 (a)Driving When Privilege Suspended or Revoked for Offenses
Not Relating to Driving Ability
One Prior Conviction
Two or More Prior Convictions

$300+
$500+
$25,000+
14601.2 (a,b)Driving When Privilege Suspended or Revoked for Driving
Under Influence of Alcohol/Drugs
One or More Prior Convictions

$2,500+
$10,000+
14601.3 (a)Accumulation of Driver Record History By Habitual Traffic
Offender During Period of License Suspension or After Revocation
$2,500+
14601.4 (a)Causing Bodily Injury While Driving With Suspended License$2,500+
14601.5 (a,b)Driving When Privilege Suspended or Revoked for Refusing
Chemical Test or Driving With Excessive Blood Alcohol
Second Offense (Section 14601, 14601.2, 14601.3, 14601.5 Within 5 Years)

$2,500+
$10,000+

Accidents & Accident Reports

Misdemeanor IDDescriptionBail Amount
20001 (a)Duty to Stop When Involved in Accident With Injury or Death$10,000+
20002 (a,b)Hit and Run - Property Damage$5,000+

Rules of the Road

Misdemeanor IDDescriptionBail Amount
23103 (a,b)Reckless Driving$5,000+
23104 (a,b)Reckless Driving – Bodily Injury$20,000+
23105 (a)Reckless Driving – Specific Injury$15,000+
23109
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
(e)
(f)1
(f)2

Engaging in Speed Contests
Abetting Speed Contests
Engaging in or Abetting Exhibition of Speed
Placing Barricades or Obstructions
Engaging in Speed Contest and Causing Bodily Injury
Engaging in Speed Contest With Prior
Engaging in Speed Contest and Causing Bodily Injury With Prior

$10,000+
$1,000+
$1,000+
$1,000+
$15,000+
$15,000+
$20,000+
23152
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
One Prior Conviction Within 10 Years
Two or More Prior Convictions Within 10 Years
Add for Traffic Collision, BAC Greater Than .15% or Refusal
Add for Both Traffic Collision and BAC Greater Than .15% or Refusal

$5,000+
$15,000+
$25,000+
$10,000+
$10,000+
23153
(a)
(b)
(d)

Driving Under Influence With .08% BAC Causing Injury
One Prior Conviction
Add for BAC Greater Than .15%

$20,000+
$50,000+
$10,000+