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What Is a Gross Misdemeanor?

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According to American law, a gross misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than a misdemeanor but not quite as serious as a felony. Some examples of gross demeanors are petty theft, simple assault, or driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI). In addition, repeat offenders who have received convictions for misdemeanors in the past are also likely to undergo sentencing for a gross misdemeanor for any future misdemeanors. The sentencing for gross misdemeanors varies widely depending on the jurisdiction in which one is tried; however, an average maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is one year in county jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

DUI: a Common Gross Misdemeanor

One of the most common types of gross misdemeanor is a DUI. As a result, there are specific penalties for such an offense. While most courts consider an average DUI a regular misdemeanor, this offense turns into a gross misdemeanor when the driver:

  • Has a blood alcohol concentration of .20 or more
  • Has a child under age 16 present in the vehicle at the time of the DUI
  • Receives the DUI while he or she has a suspended license

One of the main penalties for a gross misdemeanor DUI is license plate impoundment, in which the arresting officer seizes the driver’s license plates and issues a temporary driving permit valid for one week. The driver is also subject to other restrictions when buying or selling a vehicle during the impoundment period. The minimum amount of time for plate impoundment is one year. During this time, the driver may not operate a vehicle unless the vehicle has specially coded plates and they have been re-licensed for him or her to drive. These specially coded license plates, often referred to as “whiskey plates,” have a “WX” somewhere in the plate code. These plates are issued if:

  • The accused driver has a properly licensed substitute driver
  • A member of the driver’s household has a valid license
  • The driver has been validly re-licensed
  • The owner is not the guilty party and has a valid license

While there are other crimes that fall under the category of a gross misdemeanor, a severe DUI is one of the most common. If you are convicted of a gross misdemeanor, the first thing you should do is contact a defense attorney, as he or she can help you determine the best course of action to reduce the severity of any sentences.

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