Many different crimes can be categorized as a misdemeanor under California state law. Some examples of misdemeanors include:
- Drug Possession
- Public Intoxication
- Indecent Exposure (of the first offense)
- Petty Theft
- Disorderly Conduct
- Domestic Battery
- Driving with a Suspended License
- Violating a Restraining Order
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) with no Injuries Involved
This is not a complete list of all the misdemeanor crimes in California, but these are some of the most commonly committed ones.
What Exactly Is a Misdemeanor?
Each state in the US has varying definitions of what a misdemeanor is. In California, we define a misdemeanor as a criminal offense where the maximum punishment is no more than one year in a county jail and no more than $1000 in fines. States can have different definitions of misdemeanors based on a shorter or longer jail sentence or a higher or lower amount of fines.
It is important to note that a misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction but less serious than a felony. An infraction is not actually a crime, but rather a violation of state law which results in no jail time and a maximum of $250 in fines. Felonies are more severe than misdemeanors that require jail time of at least a year and can have fines of thousands of dollars.
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What Are the Two Types of Misdeamenors in California?
There are two types of misdemeanors in the golden state. They are differentiated based on the severity of the crime committed. For a less serious crime, it will be classified as a “standard” misdemeanor.
If found guilty, you would have to serve no more than six months in jail and pay a fine of no more than $1000. A more serious crime will be classified as a “gross” or “aggravated” misdemeanor. If convicted, you would have to spend no more than 364 days in a county jail and pay fines of $1000 or more.
If you spend more than 364 days in jail, your charges would be categorized as a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Whether your misdemeanor charges are deemed “standard” or “gross” is based upon the crime’s context and the prosecutors’ discretion.
What Are Examples of “Standard” Misdemeanors?
“Standard” misdemeanors are less severe due to the nature of their crime. They are still more serious than an infraction. Some examples of crimes listed as a “standard” misdemeanor include drug possession, public intoxication, petty theft, prostitution, and shoplifting.
If you are convicted of any of these charges, you can face up to six months in jail and pay up to $1000 in fines.
What Are Examples of “Gross” or “Aggravated” Misdemeanors?
“Gross” or “aggravated” misdemeanors are more severe crimes. They are still less serious than a felony and still categorized as misdemeanors. Some examples of crime that would be listed as “gross” or “aggravated” misdemeanors include domestic battery, driving with a suspended license, DUI without injuries involved, and violating a restraining order.
If you are convicted of any of these charges, you can face up to 364 days in jail and pay over $1000 in fines.
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What Is a “Wobbler” Offense in California?
California misdemeanor offenses can be viewed as less serious or more serious, like the difference between “standard” and “aggravated” misdemeanors. There is also another version of this called “Wobbler” offenses. These are left up to the prosecution’s discretion.
There are two kinds of wobbler offenses: felony wobblers and infraction wobblers.
A felony wobbler is when a crime borders on being either a felony or an aggravated misdemeanor. An infraction wobbler is when a crime borders on being either an infraction or a standard misdemeanor. The charges can fall upon either option, and it will be up to the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history to help determine where those charges land.
What Are Examples of “Wobblers”?
Since the concept of “Wobbler” offenses can be pretty confusing, here are some examples. Trespassing is an example of an infraction wobbler offense. This depends on where, why, and how the defendant trespassed.
Disturbing the peace is another example of an infraction wobbler for the same reasons. Regarding felony wobblers, assault with a deadly weapon is a good example. According to California Penal Code 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon can be a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
However, if the crime was more severe, the defendant could serve more time in jail and pay more in fines, hence the felony aspect of the wobbler offense. Elder abuse and brandishing a weapon are some other examples of felony wobblers.
Can a Misdemeanor Give You a Criminal Record?
A misdemeanor charge can result in a criminal record when the defendant pleads guilty or “no contest,” or when they are found guilty by the jury. So if you plead not guilty and are found to be not guilty at the trial, you will not have to worry about these charges showing up on your criminal record. There are some exceptions to this rule, most notably for drug-related cases.
If you successfully complete either the California PC 1000 drug diversion program or Prop 36 drug diversion program, the judge will drop the misdemeanor charges, and you will no longer have to stress about possible conviction.
Can a Misdemeanor Be Expunged from Your Criminal Record?
Under California state law, most misdemeanor crimes can be expunged from your criminal record. Unless you have a misdemeanor conviction for a sex crime against a child (like statutory rape), then you can file to have your misdemeanors expunged from your criminal record.
To achieve this, you must have successfully completed your probation, not face current criminal charges, and not currently be on probation for other criminal offenses. Once the misdemeanor is expunged, the law does not require you to disclose your criminal convictions on legal documents such as a job application.