Consequences of Misdemeanor Offenses


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Many individuals may brush off a misdemeanor conviction as being not serious. They may quickly plead guilty to avoid the expense and publicity of a trial, thinking that a misdemeanor will not affect them. However, any criminal conviction can have long-lasting consequences. Criminal defendants should be aware of the potential impact of any conviction before they accept a plea agreement or plead guilty.

Differences between Felonies and Misdemeanors

While felony offenses are usually considered to be more serious by most people, misdemeanors are also considered to be serious offenses. The main distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is the potential criminal sentence that the convicted individual can receive. Misdemeanor defendants can still be imprisoned. However, this imprisonment is usually for a maximum of one year. Felony defendants may face over one yearís imprisonment.

Another distinction between a felony conviction and a misdemeanor conviction is the potential fine. Felony defendants may be ordered to pay fines for their criminal acts and court costs. Misdemeanor defendants may face the same consequence. However, fines associated with felony convictions are usually higher.

Criminal Record

Defendants convicted of any crime or violation, regardless of how serious, will have a criminal record. This record will follow them wherever they go. If the individual is subsequently convicted of another offense, the defendant may be considered a repeat defendant. Even if he or she is innocent of this second charge, he or she may be advised not to testify at trial if this record can be brought up.

Often, having a criminal record can hinder employment with certain employers who have blanket policies against hiring anyone with a criminal record. Some employers may have policies that prohibit applicants who have certain types of convictions, such as crimes involving fraud, dishonesty, theft or violence. Even a misdemeanor conviction can result in a denied application, which has the effect of potentially stunting the possible earnings and career development of the defendant.

College admissions office may be able to learn about the conviction and may deny admission into an educational program because of it. Additionally, future landlords may encounter the record when checking an applicantís background. They may deny residency due to such a conviction.

Consequences to License

Even having a moving violation or other traffic ticket can have significant consequences on a defendant. For example, a person may have his or her license suspended or revoked after accumulating too many driving points or infractions.
Additionally, a criminal conviction may affect a personís professional license. Many jobs require a person to maintain certain ethical standards, including positions in governmental offices, teachers, nurses, lawyers and individuals who act as fiduciaries. The individual may be required to report this information to the professional licensing board and may face suspension, revocation or non-renewal of his or her license.

Social Consequences

Criminal convictions are generally public information. This means that anyone may be able to learn about a conviction. This may affect a personís romantic relationships, relationship with coworkers, friendships and other interpersonal relationships. It can also be a source of embarrassment for the defendantís family and children.

Immigration

Individuals who reside in the country legally but who are not yet citizens may find themselves in removal proceedings if the charges are particularly serious and make them removable. Individuals who do not have legal status may find that their illegal act has made them encounter law enforcement who now seek to have someone without lawful presence removed from the country.

Legal Assistance

Due to the important and significant consequences of a criminal conviction and acquiring a criminal record, it is important that criminal defendants fully understand these consequences and their rights. They may wish to discuss their case and options with a criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to develop a legal strategy that convinces the prosecutor to drop the charges or convinces a jury that the defendant is not guilty.

Additionally, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to offer suggestions to minimize the impact of a conviction on the defendant. For example, the defendant may be placed in a diversion program so that no official record of the criminal act is made. The defense lawyer may ask the prosecutor to pursue a charge that will allow the defendant to expunge his or her criminal record after a certain period of time. He or she may compromise with the prosecutor on a plea agreement that will provide an alternative to jail and a criminal record, such as suggesting rehabilitation.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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