Although misdemeanor charges may not have the serious weight of felony offenses, there are still significant penalties for those convicted of misdemeanors in the state of Pennsylvania. While misdemeanor charges may not require the same aggressive defense of felonies, substantial fines and lengthy incarcerations can result from a conviction. Moreover, the establishment of a criminal record can have a serious impact on your future, even for minor offenses. For these reasons, if you are facing a misdemeanor charge, you should seek out competent and vigorous representation from an experienced misdemeanor charges lawyer.
In Pennsylvania, misdemeanors are classified as first-, second-, and third-degree offenses, depending on their severity. The penalties for each degree are sequentially enhanced. Although many states limit misdemeanor penalties to a year of time spent in jail or less, this is not the case in Pennsylvania. From least to most serious, misdemeanor classifications and their possible penalties include:
- Third-degree: Up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,000. Examples of third-degree misdemeanors include open lewdness, shoplifting, and disorderly conduct with the intent to cause serious inconvenience or substantial harm.
- Second-degree: Up to two years in jail and fines up to $5,000. Examples of second-degree misdemeanors include property arson, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest.
- First-degree: Up to five years in jail and fines up to $10,000. Endangering a child, stalking, and habitual prostitution are examples of first-degree misdemeanors.
Some misdemeanors are ungraded by code in Pennsylvania. For instance, first-time DUI charges are ungraded misdemeanors that carry a mandatory sentence of six months probation and a fine of $300, along with other potential consequences. Possession of marijuana in an amount of fewer than 30 grams is another ungraded misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days incarceration and a fine of $500. While ungraded offenses may come with reduced jail time, they can still be accompanied by repercussions such as paying restitution or participating in drug or alcohol treatment programs or performing community service.
Many people make light of misdemeanor charges, especially when jail time is not on the table. However, a conviction can haunt you for years to come, inhibiting your ability to get the education and job you want. In some instances, issues with child custody and visitation or even probation can result from a misdemeanor conviction. For misdemeanor drug charges, your ability to get into the school of your choice and receive the scholarships and grant money you need to pay for college may be impacted by the establishment of a criminal record.