What is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is a criminal offense, but to a lesser extent than that of a felony.  These crimes are punishable by county jail time for less than a year.  Misdemeanors are still a worse offense than an infraction in regards to punishment.  Infractions are such things as traffic violations.

Misdemeanors are treated similarly to felonies. However, the sentences are much less intense, and the fines are also much less.  The maximum fine that a person convicted of a misdemeanor would have to pay is $1,000.

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Degrees of Misdemeanors

In some states, misdemeanors are treated like felonies in that they are given different levels of severity and then go through the court system as such.  California takes a different approach and looks at crimes on a case-by-case basis.  However, even if there aren’t formal levels, there are a couple of ways in which crimes can be more or less severe in the California court system.

Standard Misdemeanor Offenses

A standard offense has a punishment of up to six months in county jail and a maximum of $1,000 for a fee.  These kinds of offenses are somewhat common, such as petty theft and public intoxication.  This type of offense won’t get you too harsh of a sentence, but they still wind up with a punishment.  On the other hand, other offenses will garner harsher sentences than the standard offense.

Aggravated Misdemeanors

The kinds of misdemeanor offenses that garner a harsher sentence are called aggravated misdemeanors.  They are also sometimes called gross misdemeanors.  With aggravated misdemeanors, the penalty can increase to the maximum of one year in county jail, and there can also be an increase in the fine that they might have to pay.

These offenses are more serious than the ones for standard offenses and include DUIs, driving with a suspended license, and domestic battery.  These crimes need something a little harsher to deal with the severity of the crimes and the danger that they pose to other people.

Wobbler Offenses

These offenses can cross the barriers between misdemeanors and felonies, as well as the barrier between misdemeanor and infraction.  A wobbler offense may be treated in one category or the other.  Because misdemeanors are in the middle of the other two categories of offenses, there are quite a lot of offenses that can jump to misdemeanor status.

Brandishing a weapon and assault with a deadly weapon are two examples of misdemeanor offenses that can be pushed up into the felony category depending on the severity.  Assault with a deadly weapon, even as a misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $10,000, which is not a number that you typically see in the misdemeanor category.

On the other hand, offenses like disturbing the peace or trespassing can be treated as either misdemeanors or infractions.  Even as a misdemeanor, disturbing the peace only has a 90-day county jail sentence as a maximum.  These crimes are less severe and have the potential of doing much less harm to other people, which is why they can be charged as an infraction and a misdemeanor.

Offenses with No Set Punishment

Just as with felonies, if there has been no punishment set by lawmakers about the specific crime that committed, then the crime can have a punishment of up to six months in county jail, a fine of $1,000 dollars, or both.  This will be up to the judge that has taken on the case.

Alternative Sentences

While you can still be sent to jail for a misdemeanor crime, misdemeanors crimes often result in probation sentences instead of jail time.  A probation sentence can result in several things.  Probation sentences for misdemeanors are set by the judge and are a little less rigorous than the probation sentence that would result from a felony charge.

If convicted of a misdemeanor in California, the probation could include community service or labor, electronic monitoring or house arrest, counseling or treatment programs, and paying victim restitution.  There are many other things that could be included in that list, but the kind of probation that someone would get would often depend on the crime that they committed and what the judge thought was appropriate at the time.

The Statute of Limitations in California

The statute of limitations is a set of rules about how long the state has to start legal action against the defendant.  After the period set by the statute of limitations is up, the defendant can have the case dismissed instead of going through with the legal action that the state or person is bringing against them.

Many states have broad categories for offenses and have a statute of limitations for each of the broad categories.  Just as with how the state deals with its crimes, the statute of limitations is quite complicated to reflect the nature of the crimes that are being committed.  There are even crimes which California doesn’t have a statute of limitations for.  This means that the state is never unable to start legal action against a defendant.  California’s unique ideas about dealing with crime reach every corner of their process and make sure that every crime is treated individually.

Misdemeanor Bail Amounts

Because misdemeanors are less severe than most felonies, the bail amounts that are set are much lower.  They may be some crimes which have higher bails, but that is to reflect the kind of crime that was committed.  With some crimes, such as assault with a deadly weapon, you would still have a higher bail than you would with disturbing the peace on average.  Of course, bail is also set on a case-by-case basis by the judge in a particular case, so the bail will reflect the situation and the people involved in the crime.

Division 6: 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+

Division 10: 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+

Division 11: 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+