Generally speaking, crimes that are less serious than felonies but more serious than civil infractions are called “misdemeanors.” States typically group their misdemeanors into classes, or levels, but some states use other descriptive terms. Georgia recognizes “misdemeanors” and “misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature”; Iowa designates misdemeanors as “aggravated, serious, or simple”; and New Jersey calls its low-level crimes “disorderly person offenses” or “petty disorderly person offenses.”Misdemeanors can include simple assault, shoplifting, vandalism, trespassing, and public intoxication. States might also categorize low-level drug crimes, such as possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia, as misdemeanors. Traffic violations, such as speeding or running a red light, are usually civil offenses rather than crimes, but reckless driving and driving under the influence might be misdemeanors, or even felonies if injuries result.Misdemeanor convictions carry a range of penalties, including fines, probation, community service, restitution, and jail. In the federal system as in many states, the sentence for a misdemeanor cannot exceed one year. Notable exceptions are California, where a misdemeanor sentence can’t exceed 364 days, and Iowa, where a misdemeanor sentence can last two years. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, a local criminal defense lawyer can explain how the law applies in your situation.
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