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Types of Misdemeanors

Crimes are classified as either misdemeanors or a felonies, depending on the severity. A misdemeanor is the lesser of the two distinctions. In general, punishment for a misdemeanor consists of a fine, up to one year in jail, probation, court supervision, community service, or some combination of these. Depending on state laws, a number of different types of offenses that may be considered misdemeanors.

Crimes Against a Person

These crimes target a person or group of people.

  • Assault: This is typically a physical attack on another person. A misdemeanor assault typically does not cause serious injuries or involve a weapon. It is usually one of these types:
    • Simple assaultThis includes things such as punching someone with the intent of causing harm. It can also include threatening to hurt someone without actually doing so.
    • Domestic violenceThis is assault on a member of your household. The two people do not need to be related, only living together.
  • Harassment: This is continuing unwanted actions toward another person or group, creating an unpleasant situation. It may also cause a person to fear for his or her safety, such as in instances of stalking.

Find out some of the consequences for misdemeanors.

Crimes Against Public Order/Public Safety

A public safety violation is behavior that could threaten the safety of nearby persons. Types include:

  • Disorderly conduct: This misdemeanor may also be called "disturbing the peace." Many different types of unruly behavior qualify:
    • Public intoxication
    • Obstructing traffic
    • Loitering
    • Driving with an especially loud car stereo
  • Open container: Many jurisdictions prohibit carrying open containers of alcohol in some or all public places. The intent is to prevent disorderly conduct.
  • Minor in possession (MIP): This may refer to alcohol or drugs. An alcohol container does not necessarily need to be open to violate this law.
  • Prostitution: The exchange of some type of sex act for something of value, usually money. In most states, simply agreeing to the exchange is a crime.
  • DUI: In most jurisdictions, a first offense DUI is a misdemeanor, as long as there are no aggravating circumstances, such as the death of another person.

Crimes Against Property

These crimes involve taking, damaging, or entering property that is not yours. Some types include:

  • Theft: Also called larceny, theft is taking property belonging to another person without permission. There are no threats or violence involved. In many states, it also includes possessing stolen property, even if you did not take it. It is a misdemeanor only when the value of the items stolen is below a certain amount.
  • Trespass: Entering another person's property without permission and with the knowledge that you have no right to be there. An example is ignoring a "No Trespassing" sign.
  • Vandalism: This involves an intentional act that destroys or damages another person's property without that person's permission. For example, breaking a car window with a rock.

Some other property crimes are usually felonies, but may be misdemeanors if nobody was in danger of being hurt. Examples include arson or burglary, if the building is abandoned.  Learn more about the differences between a felony and a misdemeanor.

There are many more crimes that also may fall under the distinction of misdemeanor, such as indecent exposure or possession of small quantities of drugs. If you've been charged with a crime, an experienced criminal lawyer can help you understand the charges and whether your case is a misdemeanor.