What Is a Class C Misdemeanor?
If you or someone you know is facing a Class C misdemeanor the good news is that it is one of the least serious crimes in the state. In all, seven states have Class C misdemeanors – Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas. In each state, there are three categories of misdemeanors and Class C is the least serious category. While a felony is much more serious and generally punishable by a year or more in jail, misdemeanors call for punishments of less than a year in jail. And a Class C misdemeanor, though still a crime, is one of the least serious of all crimes on the books. That makes it easier to negotiate with prosecutors to avoid jail time and makes it all the more important to at least consult with an experienced criminal attorney. Class C misdemeanors include:
- Harassment – Alabama
- Public intoxication – Arkansas
- Assault – Illinois
- Illegal gambling – Missouri
- Public intoxication – Tennessee
- Theft of property valued under $50 – Texas
Maximum and Minimum Sentences
Class C misdemeanors trigger fairly short sentences, and in Texas, first-time offenders face only a fine of up to $500 and no jail time. Unlike felony convictions, the sentence for a misdemeanor is usually served in a local or county jail as opposed to a state facility. The sentences range from a maximum of 15 days in Missouri to a maximum of no more than 3 months in Alabama. Arkansas, Illinois and Tennessee also have pre-set sentences for Class C misdemeanors of no more than 30 days in jail. The potential fines range from $50 in Tennessee to a high of up to $1,500 in Illinois.
Unless you have a prior conviction or had some type of aggravating circumstance associated with your misdemeanor arrest, the most likely scenario is a mitigated sentence – or perhaps even a suspended sentence. It is crucial to have the advice of an experienced criminal attorney because there are usually many sentencing options available to Class C misdemeanor offenders. The best result is a sentence that does not leave a permanent mark on your criminal record. Many states, including Arkansas, have special first offender programs. A criminal attorney will know if this is the best option. Normally, these programs aren’t available if the offense was violent, such as an assault. Probation is a common option, but remember that, while you may avoid any jail time, the conviction will remain on your record if you agree to probation. A better option is a diversion program or a suspended sentence. These options avoid jail, and after a period of time – usually six months or a year – the charge is dismissed.
Loss of Rights and Benefits
As soon as you are convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, you could lose the following rights:
- Ability to qualify for state and federal government employment
- Ability to qualify for public procurement contracts
- Vote – Illinois
- Hold some occupations, such particularly those in healthcare, which require state or federal licenses
- Work as police officers or firefighters – Pennsylvania
There are serious and potentially lifelong consequences of a single misdemeanor conviction on your record. That’s why it’s so vital to have a criminal attorney negotiate on your behalf to try to avoid having a misdemeanor conviction on your record. Some of the rights lost by a misdemeanor conviction can be restored – either by expungement or a pardon from the governor – but the safest course of action is to fi9nd a sentencing option that results in a dismissed charge.
Employment and Housing with a Misdemeanor Conviction Record
Getting jobs and housing can be very difficult with a misdemeanor conviction. Even though potential landlords and employers recognize that misdemeanors are much less serious than felonies, the safest course of action is to choose an applicant with no criminal record whatsoever. Some misdemeanor crimes – such as harassment in Alabama or theft in Texas – will call into question your character and whether you can be trusted working or living with others. Experts recommend checking with state officials, such as the Department of Labor, for companies and individuals participating in re-entry programs that offer incentives so that individuals with criminal records are chosen.
Clearing Your Record
Assuming you were unable to avoid a misdemeanor on your record, most states allow for these crimes to be expunged. The process may require a waiting period, such as 5 years in Tennessee, but the end result can be a life-changer. An expungement wipes the arrest and conviction from your record. If you are asked if you have ever been arrested, it is legal to say no if that misdemeanor was expunged. A criminal attorney will be familiar with the proper option to clear your record. Some states have set-aside laws that are similar to an expungement. If neither of those options is available, virtually all states allow people with convictions to apply for a pardon from the governor. Pardons also may require waiting periods, but are more likely to be granted with a misdemeanor and a history of hard work and no additional criminal activity.
This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney.