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Can I Get a Jail Sentence for a Misdemeanor in California?

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, but that does not mean that they are without consequences.

Some people think misdemeanors garner a slap on the wrist, but a conviction can mean up to 1 year in jail, fines, and other penalties. Misdemeanors can also be turned into a felony, depending on the circumstances.

Like felonies, alleged misdemeanor offenses should be met with a strong criminal defense.

Common Misdemeanor Crimes in California

Misdemeanors are a level of crime between infractions and felonies. State law classifies standard and aggravated (or gross) misdemeanors, the latter carrying stiffer penalties.

Examples of standard misdemeanors include the following:

The following crimes are aggravated misdemeanors:

Possible Jail Sentences for Misdemeanors

Standards misdemeanors are punishable by up to 6 months in prison and $1,000 in fines. Aggravated or gross misdemeanors carry penalties of up to 1 year (technically, 364 days) and $2,000.

Prior to 2021, probation of up to 3 years could be imposed for misdemeanor offenses. AB 1950 changed that. The maximum probation term is now 1 year in most cases (probation was also reduced to 2 years for some felonies). Community service, restitution, and counseling are typically included with a probation sentence. Additional penalties can include electronic monitoring and restraining or protective orders.

Misdemeanor convictions remain on someone’s criminal history unless and until the convictions are successfully expunged.

Wobblers Can Be Misdemeanors or Felonies

California also has certain crimes called wobblers that can be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies. The defendant’s criminal history, the extent of any injuries, mitigating circumstances, and other factors are used to determine which crime is charged.

Common wobbler offenses include the following:

  • Burglary
  • Carrying a loaded gun in public
  • Corporal injury to a spouse
  • Stalking
  • Vehicular manslaughter

Crimes prosecuted as felonies have more severe consequences if convicted. Possible sentences include more than a year in state prison and steeper fines. Misdemeanors are not counted as strikes under California’s Three Strikes Law. Felonies, on the other hand, can result in a strike.

Wobblettes are offenses that can be charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction:

  • Criminal trespass
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Failure to appear in traffic court

Infractions are technically not crimes. The maximum fine is $250, and courts cannot impose any jail sentence. Infractions are included in your criminal record. Most infractions that are not traffic violations can be expunged.

Misdemeanors in Federal Court

Misdemeanors can also be federal offenses. These misdemeanors can be federal offenses or state offenses committed on federal property. Federal misdemeanors are typically handled by U.S. magistrate judges.

Federal misdemeanors are categorized into classes:

  • Class A misdemeanors: Punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment
  • Class B misdemeanors: Punishable by up to six months imprisonment
  • Class C misdemeanors: Punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment

Any prison sentence is served in federal prison. Fines and other penalties can also be imposed.

Strong Defense for Misdemeanor Charges

The majority of arrests are for misdemeanor offenses. In 2020, adults were arrested for 565,656 misdemeanors statewide compared to 262,210 felonies.

At Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC, we defend the rights and the future of our clients. As former prosecutors, we have insight into the criminal justice system not available at all law firms. Our clients also benefit from our collaborative approach. When you work with us, you receive the knowledge and experience of the entire firm.

Contact us today for a consultation. We are available 24/7 at (949) 251-0330.