What are class A, B, and C misdemeanors?

The federal criminal code in every state recognizes crimes that are less serious than felonies these are called misdemeanors. For example, a person who without authority enters a vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or snowmobile will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and get up to one year in jail. Furthermore, shoplifting can be a class B misdemeanor in a particular state, and the person can receive up to six months in jail and a fine of $2,000. Even though Class C misdemeanors are not serious criminal offenses, they will be recorded on the defendant's criminal history.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanors are classifications for criminal offenses. Every state has a system for classifying criminal offenses. Higher grade offenses result in higher levels of punishment. Offenses are usually divided into two general categories including felonies and misdemeanors.

Felonies are more serious crimes which can result in prison time. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes. Sometimes, you could serve only community service or pay a minor fine for a misdemeanor. Even though the punishment ranges are lower, you should not ignore misdemeanor convictions. Understanding the direct and indirect consequences of the misdemeanor classification system can help reduce the long-term consequences of a misdemeanor charge.

Keep reading to find out what crimes are Class A misdemeanors, what is a Class B misdemeanor, and what is a Class C misdemeanor. Learn what is the lowest misdemeanor, and how are misdemeanors punished. If you need further legal help, just enter your ZIP code below. 

How Do Different States Classify Misdemeanors?

Classifications for misdemeanors are set by state penal codes. Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Texas use a series of letters to classify misdemeanors including Class A, Class B, and Class C.

Class A misdemeanors are the highest level of misdemeanors. Class C misdemeanors are the lowest level. If you have no criminal history or minimal history, you can petition the court for probation or deferred adjudication, just like in a felony case. However, your time on probation is much shorter ranging from six months to two years. With a misdemeanor, you’re unlikely to face serious consequences like prison time or losing your voting rights. But they could come up during routine background checks when you apply for housing or a new job. Even if you don’t get the maximum penalty, misdemeanor crimes could affect the rest of your life.

If you’re convicted of felony offenses, some courts have mandatory sentencing laws. So your sentence is set when you’re convicted. Others leave it open to a judge’s discretion. Either way, a felony has much more serious effects on your eligibility for jobs, housing, and more.

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What Kind of Sentences Can You Expect for Misdemeanors?

If a defendant does not qualify for probation, they can be sentenced to county jail time. Felony sentences are served in state institutions, whereas misdemeanors are usually served in a local county facility. The maximums and minimums for Class A, B, and C misdemeanors are different in every state. However, Class A misdemeanors receive the highest sentence, generally up to one year in county jail. Class B misdemeanors are punished between 90-180 days in county jail. Class C misdemeanors receive the least amount of time, usually 30 days or less. In some cases, these jail sentenced are waived in favor of fees and/or community service or house arrest.

Some states only assess fines for Class C misdemeanors. Even though the time in county jail is significantly less, the time away from home can be a major inconvenience to employment, financial, and family obligations.

What Are Punishment Enhancements for Misdemeanor Offenses?

In addition to the general guidelines discussed above, some types of misdemeanor offenses will carry enhanced punishments or collateral penalties. For example, in Texas, a Class A misdemeanor theft can be enhanced to a felony if a defendant has two other theft convictions (regardless of the level).

A person convicted of any grade of theft in Texas cannot serve on a jury. Most states will automatically suspend a defendant’s driver’s license after a misdemeanor DWI or drug conviction. Certain indecency statutes, like indecent exposure, can result in a sex offender registration requirement. Any sex offender registration requirement will have a significant impact on your future. Whether you’re looking for housing or a job, many people only look at the registration status, not the details.

A Class A misdemeanor assault can result in the deportation of a defendant who is not a U.S. citizen. Because there are so many collateral consequences to a misdemeanor conviction, a defendant should never accept an “easy time-served” offer without really seeking to understand how that conviction will affect them once they leave the court house.

The good news is that many courts are increasing concern with repeat offenders. As such, many courts have begun implementing diversion programs where misdemeanor defendants can participate in specialized counseling or treatment programs with an agreement that their charges will be dismissed after the completion of the program. Because of financial constraints, many counties allow defendants to serve their time on the weekends in jail, so as not to interfere with a defendant’s employment. If jails are particularly full, counties may also release defendants they deem less threatening early.

What’s Considered A Class A Misdemeanor?

Some examples of Class A misdemeanors include:

  • A fist-fight in which the accused person punches and hurts the victim may qualify as a misdemeanor assault
  • If a person possesses a “personal identifying information access device” such as a credit card and wants to use that information fraudulently
  • Letting a child be present at a place where drugs are possessed, sold, or produced
  • Shoplifting
  • Vandalism
  • Resisting arrest

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What Would Be Considered A Class B Misdemeanor?

Some examples of Class B misdemeanors include:

  • First-offense DWI
  • Indecent exposure.
  • Failure to pay child support.
  • Minor drug possession (up to two ounces)
  • Harassment
  • False report to a police officer
  • Criminal trespass and criminal mischief

 Class C Misdemeanor Examples

Crimes identified as Class C misdemeanors are:

  • Traffic Tickets
  • Public intoxication
  • Simple assault
  • Criminal trespassing
  • Gambling
  • Bail jumping
  • Leaving a child in a vehicle
  • Possession of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle
  • Minor driving under the influence of alcohol

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