If you’ve been charged with a Misdemeanor, you’ve probably heard that you face up to 90 days in jail, and a $1,000.00 fine. What does all of this mean?
A step back helps put this in context. A misdemeanor is the second lowest level of offense, and the first that is considered a crime. Below a Misdemeanor is an infraction. 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.
What makes a misdemeanor 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.
Are you going to spend 90 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 uncommon for people who get charged with a misdemeanor to spend no time in jail.
The most common misdemeanor (and crime in general), by a large margin, is Driving While License Suspended in the 3rd Degree (DWLS 3). What this means is you got your driving license revoked, for failing to pay your traffic tickets. The truth is that there is no defense to this crime, in most practical terms. It does not matter if you got the letter explaining. All that matters is if the Department of Licensing sent the letter to the address on file with the agency. However… generally, if you can get your license back, the prosecutor will do something to help you. There are exceptions to this, but getting your license back is a good first step.
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.