Criminal Defense

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Criminal Defense

Charged with a Crime?

Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Charges and Penalties

Photo of a man in handcuffs

A criminal conviction can drastically affect the rest of your life. You may face the possibility of jail time, fines and other penalties, and your reputation may be damaged. Additionally, a conviction may prevent you from finding work and/or housing in the future. Since so much hangs in the balance, you should always work a criminal defense lawyer with a history of success.

Even innocence is not always an ironclad defense – law enforcement and prosecutors may not care about your side of the story, but will simply focus on getting a conviction. An attorney can work to enforce your rights and expose any misconduct or negligence that may have led to your arrest. In many cases, a good lawyer can get your charges or penalties reduced, minimizing the negative impact on your life.

If you have been arrested, or if someone you know was taken into police custody, then you should find a lawyer as quickly as possible. No matter what kinds of charges you face, from a misdemeanor to a felony, finding an attorney you trust is essential. To speak with a local criminal lawyer today, consult our listings.

What Are the Basic Types of Criminal Charges?

The type of criminal charge you face may vary depending on the nature of the alleged crime. Although each state has its own specific classifications, the general types of charges are:

  • Infraction. An infraction is the least serious type of charge you can face. In fact, some states handle infractions as civil cases, rather than criminal cases. Traffic violations and other minor offenses usually fall into this category. Jail is generally not a possibility for infractions, so you are not entitled to a jury trial and the state will usually not appoint you a lawyer. However, you can still hire one of your own.
  • Petty offense. Some states categorize low-level criminal conduct as petty offenses. This may include illegal acts like gambling, disturbing the peace, public indecency, pollution violations and theft of items of low value.
  • Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a more serious charge and county courts typically handle these cases. Common misdemeanor charges include assault, criminal trespass, theft and certain drug crimes, including possession and sale.
  • Felony. This is the most serious type of criminal charge and state and/or federal courts usually handle these cases. Common felonies include murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, vehicular homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and certain drug crimes.

In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution to reduce the severity of the charges you face. If the court reduces your charge from a low-level felony to a misdemeanor, for example, then the repercussions you face may be much less serious.

In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can negotiate on your behalf with the prosecution to reduce the severity of the charges you face. If the court reduces your charge from a low-level felony to a misdemeanor, for example, then the repercussions you face may be much less serious.

What Is the Penalty for a Misdemeanor?

The specifics of misdemeanor penalties vary state to state. To learn about your state’s law, search “(your state) criminal defense” from the search bar on our homepage to learn more.

Most states will classify misdemeanors as Class A through Class D, or Class 1 through Class 4. Generally, the As and the 1s are the most serious types of misdemeanors with the heavier penalties. They could include up to a year of jail time and fines approaching $5,000. The Ds and 4s may carry a punishment of around 30 days in jail and fines up to $500. Repeat offenses can land harsher sentences.

Some examples of types of misdemeanors include:

  • Class A/Class 1 Misdemeanors: Assault, DUI/DWI, resisting arrest, burglary
  • Class B/Class 2 Misdemeanors: DWI (first offense), prostitution, harassment, shoplifting, graffiti
  • Class C/Class 3 Misdemeanors: City code violations, small amounts of drug possession, issuing a bad check, disorderly conduct
  • Class D/Class 4 Misdemeanors: Driving with an expired license, possession of drug paraphernalia, attempt to purchase alcohol as a minor

Some misdemeanors are unclassified. These are handled on a case-by-case basis.

What is the Penalty for a Felony?

Like misdemeanors, each state has its own system for what qualifies as a felony and what penalties may result from a conviction. To find what yours is, simply search “(your state) criminal defense” to learn more about yours.

Felonies carry harsher punishments than misdemeanors. While a misdemeanor has a maximum sentence of one year in jail, felonies can carry a multi-year or even lifetime sentence. Instead of a jail, these sentences will be served at a prison facility.

While misdemeanors are categorized into classes, felonies are mostly grouped by degrees. Some states take a difference approach, but generally felonies fall into the following categories:

  • First-degree felony: Murder, rape, arson, kidnapping, fraud
  • Second-degree felony: Manslaughter, child molestation, aggravated assault
  • Third-degree felony: Elder abuse, fraud, assault and battery
  • Fourth-degree felony: Resisting arrest, involuntary manslaughter, larceny, burglary

Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer? We Can Help

If you are facing any level of criminal charge, then a qualified lawyer may be essential to protecting your future. Additionally, if someone you know is currently in police custody, then you may wish to reach out to a lawyer on his or her behalf. To find a criminal defense lawyer in your area, then consult our attorney listings. If you have general question about criminal law or certain charges, then do not hesitate to ask the lawyers.

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