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Misdemeanor Charges in Los Angeles

In California, criminal offenses are classified as

  • infractions

  • misdemeanors

  • or felonies

Infractions, such as traffic violations, are the least serious and are punishable by a fine or community service, but no jail time. Infractions will not appear on your criminal record.

A conviction for a misdemeanor, however, is considered more serious than infractions but less serious than felonies and will remain on your permanent record and carry consequences that can seriously impact your future. Misdemeanors carry a punishment of less than 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Felonies are the most serious of all, resulting in possible prison time from 16 months to life, and even punishment by death.

More About Misdemeanors

Numerous crimes are commonly charged as misdemeanors, such as petty theft, first-time DUIs, disorderly conduct, trespassing and vandalism with penalties that can include up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, and probation.

Misdemeanors are usually charged by a written complaint. Typically the complaint is filed with the court shortly before or on the day of the defendant's first court appearance (the "Arraignment").

While misdemeanor charges may be considered minor, being accused and/or convicted can have devastating lifelong effects.

Misdemeanor Sentencing

If a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor, either by a plea or a jury trial, the court can impose probation (informal) with or without jail time, community service, physical labor, counseling, restitution (monetary payment to the victim), fines ($200 to $2,000), and "stay-away" orders.

A misdemeanor conviction also results in the person having a permanent criminal record.

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