This is the lowest level criminal charge, and they are almost always filed in a Court of Limited Jurisdiction (so a City Municipal or a County District Court). Misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of 90 days in a county or city jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
Gross Misdemeanors are almost always filed in a Court of Limited Jurisdiction (so a City Municipal or a County District Court). These crimes carry a maximum sentence of 364 days in a county or city jail and a $5,000.00 fine.
When a court imposes a sentence for a Misdemeanor or Gross Misdemeanor, the court will suspend or defer some or all of the sentence and place the person on probation. During probation, the person must maintain law-abiding behavior, and comply with other conditions that are set. These conditions could include: maintain No Contact with a victim or a witness, perform community service hours, obtain a chemical dependency evaluation, participate in substance abuse treatment, obtain a mental health evaluation, participate in counseling or other mental health treatment, attend Victim Impact Panels. If person violates any of these conditions, the court can set a review hearing to address the violation, and if the court decides a violation occurred, the judge can impose some or all of the suspended jail times and fines. When a sentence is suspended, then the case is closed after the probationary period is over. When a sentence is deferred, the person gets to withdraw their guilty plea at the end of probation, and the charge is dismissed.
Class C Felony
The maximum sentence is 5 years in a state prison and a $10,000.00 fine.
Class B Felony
The maximum sentence is 10 years in a state prison and a $20,000.00 fine.
Class A Felony
The maximum sentence is life imprisonment in a state prison and a $50,000.00 fine.
Felonies are almost always filed in a County Superior Court. Sentencing on a felony is based on the person’s sentencing range as determined by the Adult Sentencing Manual. Each felony is assigned a seriousness level. An individual is assigned an “offender score”, which assigns them a numerical point score based on their criminal conviction history and the current charges. There is actually a chart to ascertain where an individual’s offender score aligns with a crime’s seriousness level. Some felonies are “unranked”, so if you are convicted of one of these crimes, the sentencing range is 0 – 12 months, regardless of your score. After a period of incarceration, many felonies require Department of Corrections (“DOC”) supervision for a period of time after release from custody.
The prosecutor can ask for an “exceptional up” sentence and the defense can ask for a “downward departure” outside of these standard ranges, but such requests require proof of aggravating or mitigating factors.
For many crimes, an individual who has never been in trouble is looking at far less time than someone who has multiple prior convictions. Certain convictions “wash” from an individual’s offender score after a period of time in the community with no new convictions.
Sentencing can be fairly draconian, and determining what range you are looking at upon conviction depends on your specific history and the facts and charges of your case.