Wednesday, July 23, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is any minor crime that is punishable by a jail term in the county or local jail of under one year and can range from 10 days up to 364 days.  A felony conviction warrants a prison sentence.  In fact in Florida to make it very clear that the sentence is for prison and not jail, the judge will impose a sentence of a  "year and a day".  A person will not lose their civil rights if convicted of a misdemeanor unless the crime is one of dishonesty, such as theft, and it should not affect the ability of the offender to obtain professional licenses in most states.  Generally a conviction of two misdemeanors will result in a felony charge, but not always.  It will depend on the crime.

So what kinds of crimes are misdemeanors?  Assault.  Theft of under $250 ($500 in some states).  Indecent exposure, unless it's in front a child, then it becomes a felony.  Traffic violations such as speeding or driving without a license.  Most first-time misdemeanor offenders don't get jail time; they will get a fine and/or some type of probation.  That type of sentence is often referred to as a 'slap on the wrist'.

Writers, remember that misdemeanor charges are handled in the lower courts.  Don't have your character facing a superior court judge for trespassing and don't have him sent to prison.



Tamara said...

Thanks, Jody. I am copying and pasting this on a document. I have a relative who gets into trouble, and I have wondered about these distinctions.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Tamara. re: relative who gets in trouble. Yeah, don't we all have at least one in the family. I even had an uncle who was too touchy-feely with the nieces. Back then at family picnics our moms would just tell us to stay away from Uncle it's a whole different enchilada.

Chris said...

So that's where the 'year and a day' saying came from. Interesting info, Jody, thanks for posting it.