Phoenix-Mesa-Gilbert Criminal Defense Misdemeanors
Misdemeanor is derived from the word demeanor, which means “behavior toward others,” and mis, which means “bad.” So the literal definition of the term is “bad behavior toward others.”
In the U.S. criminal justice system, the term has come to define less serious crimes than felonies. If you are charged with a misdemeanor in the Phoenix-Mesa-Gilbert area, you won’t face prison time. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious consequences. If convicted of a misdemeanor crime, you could still face jail (not prison) time, probation, fines and fees, and a costly mark on your record and your reputation. You need an attorney on your side to help you defend your freedom and your rights.
Arizona divides misdemeanor crimes into three classifications, with Class 1 the most severe. Here is an overview of all three misdemeanor classes under Arizona law:
- Class 1: Carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail, $2,500 in fines, and three years probation. Some common crimes that fall into this class include DUI, assault with injury, threatening, minor in possession, unauthorized possession of a prescription drug or possession of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, driving on a suspended license, shoplifting and theft, and prostitution. Note: Some DUI offenses may carry a maximum of five years probation.
- Class 2: Carries a maximum penalty of four months in jail, $750 in fines, and two years probation. Assault, verbal assault, sending a threatening letter to someone, poaching, registration card and license plate violations, reckless driving, criminal damage of less than $250, and leaving the scene of an accident are all common Class 2 misdemeanors.
- Class 3: Carries a maximum penalty of one month in jail, $500 in fines, and one year probation. Examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include some criminal trespass and loitering offenses, touching another person with the intent to injure, assault, failure to provide school instruction to children between the ages of six and 16, and excessive speed violations.
In addition to the above listed penalties, courts may also impose restitution, community service, license suspension, counseling, classes or treatment, work release, and home detention. Other consequences that a person may face upon conviction of a misdemeanor include a permanent record, loss of gun rights, a negative impact on ones’ immigration and legal status, negative impact on one’s professional status and job opportunities, increased insurance rates, and potential loss of child custody rights.
Repeat offenses may result in more severe penalties. For example, if a person faces charges for the same Class 3 offense multiple times, the court can penalize it as though it were a Class 2 offense.
What Is the Legal Process if I Am Charged With a Misdemeanor?
Once you face misdemeanor charges, your case will begin working its way through the legal process, which can take several months to complete. Ideally, you will have a criminal defense attorney before you are even charged, so that you can get the most advantage from legal expertise as possible.
Here is a look at some of the court process that will typically take place as your case progresses.
- Initial appearance: A simple proceeding in which the judge will set the conditions of your release following arrest, and will schedule your arraignment. If you were summoned or cited rather than arrested, your first appearance before a judge will take place at the arraignment.
- Arraignment: At this time, the judge will read the charges against you and ensure that you understand your rights. You are expected to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. More often than not, you will enter a not guilty plea so that your attorney can start discovery and begin negotiating with the prosecution. If you are eligible for a diversion program, your attorney may find out at the arraignment.
- Pre-trial conference: The pre-trial conference is an opportunity for your attorney and the prosecutor to negotiate and to work either toward a resolution (such as a plea agreement) or preparation for trial.
- Pre-trial evidentiary hearings and motions: This when your attorney may make the motion to suppress evidence or even to dismiss your case.
- Trial: Many cases resolve before ever reaching trial. However, if yours is not, then your attorney must prepare to defend you either before a judge or before a jury of your peers.
The best case scenario is that your attorney will get your case dismissed and the charges dropped. However, if this doesn’t happen, then another option is to have your attorney attempt to reduce the charges. Often this involves accepting a plea bargain. Plea bargains typically involve you pleading guilty to a lesser charge, and there are both pros and cons to doing so.
A knowledgeable attorney from McPhie Law will never push you into accepting a plea agreement that you do not want. Instead, your attorney will fully explain the terms of the agreement, the downsides as well as the upsides, so that you can make a fully informed decision as to whether the agreement is in your own best interest.
For certain misdemeanor crimes, you have the option to participate in a diversion program. The program includes education and counseling with the intent of rehabilitation and preventing you from committing other crimes in the future. Your participation in such a program requires approval from the prosecutor. You will enter into a plea agreement. Upon successful completion of the program, the court will dismiss your case. However, if you fail to complete the program, the court will sentence you according to the terms set forth in your agreement.
Your attorney will advise you if such a program is available to you.
McPhie Law: Someone on Your Side in Phoenix-Mesa-Gilbert Misdemeanor Cases
Criminal charges create a lot of stress. Even when you face a misdemeanor, you have a lot on the line—your freedom, your finances, and your reputation. The criminal defense attorneys from McPhie Law are ready to stand by their clients’ sides and use our wealth of information and the experience of more than 1,000 criminal cases to fight on their behalf. To schedule a free consultation and case review, call us at (480) 400-5555 or contact us online today.