What Happens When You Plead Guilty to a Misdemeanor?

By Elizabeth (Lisa)Thompson
Shoplifting is considered a misdemeanor in most locales.

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Most states categorize crimes into two separate groups, felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are serious offenses and include such crimes as rape, murder and many drug charges. Misdemeanors, which are less serious crimes, include minor traffic violations, disorderly conduct, trespassing and shoplifting. A variety of consequences can result after a guilty plea to a misdemeanor.

Programs

After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, you may have to attend a diversion program, such as a driver's education program, or programs for shoplifting, substance abuse education or domestic violence counseling. After you attend these programs, the courts may dismiss your charges, and they will not appear on you record. (References 4)

Fines

Misdemeanor fines vary widely, depending on the locale and the seriousness of the offense. While most fines are due at sentencing, courts usually accept some type of payment plans as long as you pay an additional fee for the privilege of paying the fine over an extended time period.

Jail

Misdemeanors can carry a penalty which includes time in custody, which will vary depending on the specific crime and the jurisdiction. By definition, jail time usually accompanies a misdemeanor conviction, as opposed to prison. Time served generally lasts less than a year, while prison sentences are usually longer.

Bail or Bond

When you pay a bond, you promise that you will appear in court and abide by any restrictions ordered by the judge. A personal recognizance bond means you do not have to pay any money; you are released on the promise of your word. If the court assesses a cash bond, you must pay the full amount of money ordered. In a percent bond, the court only charges a certain portion of the bond, but if you fail to appear, you will have to pay the remainder. A bondsman can also pay a surety bond for you. You may not get back money or property posted toward a bond; the courts may keep it. If you fail to appear in court, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.

Probation

The courts may also place you on probation for a specified period of time. Supervised probation means you will need report to a probation officer, usually in person. Unsupervised probation means the court will monitor your progress. If you commit any new crimes while on probation or fail to comply with probation requirements, you could be subject to jail.

Community Service

Courts might impose community service hours as a way for the offender to give back to the community. The offender usually must work at a pre-approved agency and must complete the hours by a set date. The agency will inform the court when you complete your work order hours.

Driver's License Suspension

For certain traffic-related offenses, the courts will suspend your driver's license, most commonly for excessive traffic violations or for drinking and driving.

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