In Washington, criminal charges range from misdemeanors to serious felonies. If you’re convicted of any criminal charge, it could lead to fines, jail time and other penalties. Even though misdemeanor offenses are not as serious as felonies, you still might be facing jail time. When you’re facing a misdemeanor, it’s crucial that you talk to a criminal defense lawyer in Lynnwood about your case. Many people mistakenly assume that since it’s a misdemeanor, no jail time is on the table, and that’s a costly mistake to make.
“Simple” Misdemeanor Charges
Simple misdemeanor offenses include things like trespassing and disorderly conduct, and they are prosecuted in district and municipal courts. For this type of misdemeanor, the maximum fine is $1,000 and the maximum jail sentence is 90 days. The judge can impose a fine, jail time or both. In general, judges are more likely to order longer jail sentences if your case has other factors in it that make the offense more serious or if you already have past criminal convictions.
“Gross” Misdemeanor Offenses
A gross misdemeanor is more serious than a simple one but still not as serious as felony crimes. These offenses include driving under the influence for the first time, theft in the third degree, reckless driving and fourth-degree domestic assault. When you are convicted of one of these misdemeanors, you could be facing a fine of up to $5,000, 364 days in jail, or both jail time and a fine. As with simple misdemeanors, expect to be facing a harsher sentence within those limits if you already have prior convictions.
Penalties Vary by Case
The maximum sentence in state law in Washington is not mandatory. This means that just being charged with a simple or gross misdemeanor doesn’t mean that you will automatically have to serve three months or a year in jail. Many factors will impact your sentence, including the state of your criminal record and how serious the circumstances of your offense were. An experienced criminal defense lawyer in Lynnwood can sometimes negotiate sentences that are alternatives to jail time for misdemeanor offenses, including probation.
Probation May Be a Possibility
When you are convicted of a simple or gross misdemeanor, the judge may order you to serve probation. This is essentially a period of time where you’re supervised but allowed to stay in your community and outside of jail. When you’re on probation, you may have additional conditions that you have to meet. These include not having any sort of weapon, not being allowed to drink (which is likely if your offense involved alcohol), attending mandatory alcohol classes and not having any contact with the victim (if applicable). If you violate the terms of your probation, you could be facing a revocation hearing, at which the judge will decide whether to revoke your probation. Should your probation be revoked, the judge can then impose jail time for your offense.
Consequences Beyond Today
Having a misdemeanor conviction on your record can have consequences for you down the road. These offenses can show up on employer searches of your background and limit job opportunities, or they might become part of your driving record. In some places, you may not be able to hold certain types of professional licenses due to a misdemeanor on your record. Some federal programs, such as those involving housing, bar people with some types of misdemeanor convictions from participating. While the type of misdemeanor you are convicted of does play a role in the consequences you’ll experience from it in the future, it’s still best to seek legal help no matter what charge you are facing.
Have Experienced Help on Your Side
Misdemeanors are not at the same level as felonies, but that doesn’t mean you should take the charge lightly because you could be looking at a jail sentence and/or a substantial fine. Plan to meet with a criminal defense lawyer in Lynnwood as soon as you can after you are charged with a misdemeanor. He or she will evaluate and analyze your case to build a defense strategy and may negotiate with the prosecutor involved to help you avoid jail time or get your charge reduced.