If you’ve been charged with a Gross Misdemeanor, you’ve probably heard that you face up to 364 days in jail, and a $5,000.00 fine. What does all of this mean?
A step back helps put this in context. A Gross Misdemeanor is the third lowest level of offense, and the first that is considered a crime. A misdemeanor is the next one below. Below a Misdemeanor is an infraction. Misdemeanors are punishable by 90 days and a $1000.00 fine. The difference between a misdemeanor and an infraction is that infractions only can result in fines, while Misdemeanors can have a jail sentence. Infractions are things you might be more familiar with, like a traffic tickets.
Above a Gross Misdemeanor is a Felony. Felony’s are far, far more serious. They are punishable by over a year in jail, with the sentencing range determined by the Washington State sentencing guidelines. A conviction for one brings an automatic loss of the right to use and possess a firearm, as well as other potential effects.
What makes a gross misdemeanor, not a misdemeanor, and not anything more serious? The truth is that there is no logical scheme that will tell you when a crime is determined to be a Misdemeanor as opposed to a gross misdemeanor. That choice is made by the Washington State Legislature, and while generally the idea is ‘less serious’ crimes will be considered misdemeanors, that is inherently a judgment call. The line between Gross Misdemeanor and Felony is no better.
Are you going to spend 360 days in jail? You could, but very likely will not. The numbers given are the maximum a judge can give for this crime. Most people are sentenced toward the lower end of the range. It is not unheard for people who get charged with a gross misdemeanor to spend no time in jail. The sentence will depend on your crime and circumstances.
The most common gross misdemeanors are Assault in the Fourth Degree, Domestic Violence, or Driving While Intoxicated. These crimes are covered elsewhere on the site.
However, it is always key to remember, the State is represented by an experienced attorney. Before anything else, you want to get an attorney on your side.