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Can I Go to Jail for a Misdemeanor Offense?

If you are under the impression that a New York misdemeanor offense is insignificant, you aren’t alone. That assumption is incorrect.

With more than 154,000 misdemeanor arrests in 2020, many of those charged were probably surprised to learn they can be fined and sentenced to time behind bars. In that same year, Nassau County alone recorded 6,045 arrests while Suffolk County had 8,587. The Bronx saw the most arrests in the state with 16,228.

Our lawyers at attorneys at Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC do not underestimate the impact a misdemeanor charge can have on your professional future, personal relationships, and reputation.

Misdemeanors on Long Island

A misdemeanor is one of four types of offenses in New York: felony, misdemeanor, violation, and traffic infraction.

A wide range of crimes are classified as misdemeanors, including the following:

  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
  • Criminal Trespass
  • Criminal Mischief
  • Arson
  • Petit Larceny
  • DWI
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Assault
  • Weapons

The devil is in the details. Some of the crimes listed above can be elevated to felonies, depending on the circumstances.

Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction

Misdemeanor charges must be taken seriously. Such charges will create a criminal record that can follow you for years to come.

Misdemeanors are classified into three categories:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: Up to 364 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine (or double the amount the defendant gained from committing the crime)
  • Class B Misdemeanor: Up to 3 months in jail and/or a $500 fine (or double the defendant’s gain)
  • Unclassified Misdemeanor: The least serious and determined by specific law or ordinance relating to the crime

A judge also can sentence a defendant to probation instead of jail. Probation for class A misdemeanors is often 2 or 3 years. A class A misdemeanor involving sexual assault has longer probation periods, typically 6 years. Probation for class B misdemeanor offenders is usually 1 year.

Lingering Repercussions of a Misdemeanor Conviction

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies yet can impact your life long after you serve any sentence or paid fines. A misdemeanor conviction gives you a criminal record.

A criminal record, even for less serious crimes, can affect you in numerous ways:

  • You will probably need to explain the situation to a prospective employer who runs a background check. While your misdemeanor conviction might not bar you from getting the job, you will more likely be passed over if another candidate is qualified.
  • Not only will employers check your background, but so will colleges and landlords. Your applications to school or housing will be reviewed with greater scrutiny and your chances of denial are higher.
  • Criminal records are public records. Would-be dating partners, neighbors, and anyone else can see your record and make assumptions that aren’t necessarily true.
  • A more-serious misdemeanor could hurt an immigrant’s ability to stay in the U.S. Deportation proceedings can be initiated.

Some non-violent felonies and misdemeanor criminal records have the potential to be sealed. Sealing the record does not make the conviction disappear, but employers, landlords, and others conducting background checks will not see the conviction. Sealing a criminal record offers improved housing, employment, and social opportunities.

Serious Legal Counsel for Misdemeanor Charges

Do not jeopardize your future by handling your misdemeanor case on your own. If your case isn’t handled by a knowledgeable attorney, your future might pay the price.

At Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC, our extensive background in criminal defense can help minimize your risk of facing life-changing penalties. Count on us to fight for your rights in New York’s complex judicial system.

Discuss your case with a talented attorney in a free initial consultation. To schedule, reach out to us online or call (516) 218-5131.