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What are class A, B, and C misdemeanors?

UPDATED: July 19, 2012

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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 punishments. 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. Even though the punishment ranges are lower, you should not ignore a misdemeanor charge. Understanding the direct and indirect consequences of the misdemeanor classification system can help reduce the long-term consequences of a misdemeanor charge.

Classifications for Misdemeanors by State

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. 

Sentences for Felonies and 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. 

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. 

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. 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.

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