What Is a Class B Misdemeanor?
First the good news: Class B misdemeanors are among the least serious crimes in many states. However, a misdemeanor conviction is still a serious matter that can have a lifelong negative effect on an individual. Eight states have separate categories for misdemeanors that include Class B. Those states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. Examples of Class B misdemeanors throughout the country include:
- Cruelty to animals – Alabama
- Prostitution – Arkansas
- Window peeking – Illinois
- Prostitution – Tennessee
- Carrying a concealed weapon – Oregon
- Possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana – Texas
Maximum and Minimum Sentences
The presumptive sentencing ranges for Class B misdemeanors goes from six months in jail in Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Oregon to a maximum of 15 days in Missouri. Fines also can accompany the prison sentence and range from $3,000 in Alabama and $2,500 in Oregon to a maximum of $300 in Missouri and $2,550 in Kentucky.
Unless you have committed a crime of violence or have prior convictions, there is a good chance that you can avoid any jail time and also avoid having a misdemeanor conviction on your permanent record. An experienced criminal defense attorney can be quite helpful in negotiating with prosecutors for alternatives to jail. The goal isn’t just to avoid spending time in jail but to also avoid having a conviction on your criminal record. Many states have first offender laws such as the First Offender’s Act in Arkansas. Under that law, a first offender with no prior felony can plead guilty and spend a year on probation. If there is no criminal activity during probation, the charge is dismissed. Other states have programs similar to the Suspended Imposition of Sentence program in Missouri. The concept is the same: the defendant pleads guilty but the conviction is not entered if the offender completes a probation period – which may include restitution, community service, or other obligations – without being arrested for a crime. If, however, the misdemeanor is a crime of violence, or prior convictions are involved, a defendant may face enhanced penalties instead of avoiding jail time with community sentencing options.
Loss of Rights and Benefits
As soon as you are convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, you generally lose the following rights:
- Ability to qualify for state and federal government employment
- Hold some occupations that require state or federal licenses or permits, including barber, real estate, and many healthcare positions
- Work in a senior living community
- Ability to receive procurement contracts from the state
- Vote – Illinois
A felony conviction will have a greater negative impact than a misdemeanor conviction, but there are many civil rights lost as a result of a single Class B misdemeanor conviction. Additionally, a drug-related misdemeanor conviction can make a person ineligible to live in federally subsidized housing or to receive federal benefits such as Food Stamps.
Employment and Housing with a Felony Record
The impact of a misdemeanor conviction is two-fold when it comes to employment. Some job opportunities are closed to people with convictions. On top of that, many employers avoid hiring someone with a criminal record. Someone with a Class B misdemeanor conviction will also have a difficult time finding suitable housing. The best for felons, according to experts, is to focus on landlords of small complexes or single units. For employment, felons should contact charitable organizations like Goodwill and state agencies for employers with a record of hiring felons.
Clearing Your Record
It is much easier to clear your record when a misdemeanor conviction is involved, as opposed to a felony conviction. A criminal attorney will be familiar with the best options in your state. In many cases, an expungement will wipe away the conviction as though it never existed. For example, expungement is available to virtually all misdemeanors except assault and domestic violence in Arkansas. A five-year waiting period is required, similar to Kentucky. Another option is a pardon from the governor. A waiting period of 3 to 5 years – and sometimes more – also is required. Expungement is generally a better option because it is granted in larger numbers than pardons.