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What are the consequences of a misdemeanor and what can you do about it?

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Note: Billie’s story is a fictional scenario presented to illustrate the consequences of a misdemeanor and what can be done about it.


Crimes are categorized as misdemeanors or felonies. A misdemeanor is a minor wrongdoing. It is considered a non-indictable offense, which means it is generally nonviolent and does not result in significant damage. 

Although less serious than a felony, a misdemeanor still comes with penalties. We will discuss the legal process, types of misdemeanors, its consequences, and your legal options. It is advisable to seek legal counsel for misdemeanors to mitigate their impact on your life. 

The Legal Process: Charges Vs. Conviction 

In criminal law, being charged with a crime is the first step of the legal process when there are allegations of criminal behavior. To be charged means you are formally accused by the prosecutor’s office of committing a crime. This is also known as “pressing charges.” 

In this case, you are innocent until determined guilty. To be convicted of a crime, however, is the last step in the legal process. This means you’ve been found guilty by a judge or jury.

Types of Misdemeanors 

The types of misdemeanors include the following, in order of severity from least to most: 

  1. Petty misdemeanors, which are minor offenses often punished by a fine (petty theft, minor traffic violations, disorderly conduct)
  2. Simple misdemeanors, which may result in fines, probation, community service, or short jail sentences (certain types of assault, vandalism, shoplifting)
  3. Gross misdemeanors, which carry heavy penalties such as large fines and long jail sentences (DUI, domestic violence)

There is another category called “unclassified misdemeanors,” and this refers to offenses that are defined under local laws or involve violations that don’t fit into any of the above categories. The classification of the misdemeanor can vary depending on the area and circumstances. See this list for the types of misdemeanor charges you may face in Oklahoma or Arkansas. 

What Are The Consequences of a Misdemeanor?

Consequences of misdemeanors depend on what the crime is, where the crime was committed, and someone’s previous criminal record. For example, if someone is pulled over for speeding and already has a warrant out for their arrest, that is a different situation than someone who gets pulled over and has no “priors,” or past offenses. 

The severity of the misdemeanor, jurisdictional laws based on the area the crime was committed, and the person’s record all affect their case. 

Common consequences of being convicted of a misdemeanor are:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Community Service
  • An effect on someone’s professional licensing 
  • Possible loss of rights, such as gun rights or the right to vote
  • Immigration consequences for non-citizens, such as deportation
  • A criminal record, which could affect your career, education, or housing
  • Misdemeanor probation, also called informal or summary probation, is an alternative to jail time which involves being supervised by the court instead of a probation officer

What Are My Options?

When facing a misdemeanor charge, it is wise to take these steps: 

  1. Understand the charge
  2. Consider appointing a lawyer
  3. Ask your legal counsel if it is in your favor to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea bargain, as explained below
  4. Attend all required court appearances, as failure to do so could increase penalties or result in a warrant for your arrest
  5. Gather evidence or witnesses who were there at the time of the crime that could defend your case (photos, documents, testimonies)
  6. See if there is a pretrial program available, which offers defendants an opportunity to complete certain requirements (counseling, community service) in exchange for having charges dropped 
  7. Prepare to present evidence and question witnesses from the other side in court (if you plead not guilty and your case goes to trial)

A plea bargain involves pleading guilty in exchange for a bargain (example: pleading guilty to a lesser charge for a lighter sentence). This saves you from greater penalties, saves the court effort and uncertainty, and saves the prosecutors time and money. 

If you plead guilty or are found guilty, the judge will determine your sentence. 

Billie’s Story

Billie stopped for gas on his way out of town. Strapped for cash, he went into the convenience store to shoplift a bottle of alcohol. As he pulled out of the gas station, he saw lights from a police car behind him. 

The officer pulled him over and confirmed Billie matched the description the gas station worker gave him. Billie’s truck and license plate number also confirmed he was the offender. Billie’s petty theft was caught on surveillance camera, and this wasn’t the first time he stole something. He knew they had sufficient evidence to find him guilty. 

He got a lawyer to negotiate a plea bargain, and he inquired about pretrial programs. He wanted to get the charges dropped and in exchange, attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and perform community service. 


Misdemeanors can have major repercussions on someone’s life. A criminal defense attorney can help you face these charges, walk you through the consequences, and explore your legal options. An attorney can also advise you of your rights and represent you in court. 

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor and need an attorney, The Law Offices Of Craig L. Cook can help. We have been serving clients in Arkansas and Oklahoma for over 40 years. Book a free consultation with us to begin your search for an expert to defend you in your case!