Because a misdemeanor conviction does not result in the loss of civil rights, such as the right to vote or own a firearm, some people believe they do not need a criminal defense lawyer. They believe they can handle the charges on their own. However, misdemeanors do have the potential to impact the rest of your life negatively.
If you assume that a misdemeanor charge is nothing to worry about, you are taking a costly gamble that could put you behind bars.
Before you brush off a misdemeanor charge as a minor offense, consider these facts about misdemeanor charges in Arizona.
Arizona has three classes of misdemeanors. A Class 3 misdemeanor is the least serious charge. A Class 3 misdemeanor conviction could carry a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.
A Class 2 misdemeanor has a punishment of a fine of up to $750 and up to four months in jail. The most serious misdemeanor, a Class 3 misdemeanor, can result in a fine of up to $2,500 and up to six months in jail.
It is important to remember that prior criminal convictions and aggravating circumstances could turn a misdemeanor charge into a felony charge.
The best course of action is to always have an attorney represent you, no matter what level of charge you face.
Numerous crimes are charged as a misdemeanor.
Some crimes that are charged as misdemeanors include certain types of:
The above list is not inclusive. Many crimes fall under the category of a misdemeanor.
As mentioned above, aggravating circumstances, the details of the crime, and a prior criminal record could increase the charge to a felony.
Also, additional punishments might be ordered. For example, indecent exposure could result in registering as a sex offender, which has long-term implications for all areas of your life.
If you are convicted of driving under the influence, you could have your license suspended. Your automobile insurance could increase substantially.
Drug crimes and weapons charges are two other types of crimes that can quickly escalate from a misdemeanor charge to a felony charge. A person who believes they can handle a simple criminal charge could quickly realize their “minor” offense has turned into a felony charge with severe consequences.
The fact is that there are no minor criminal offenses. Being charged with any crime is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. A criminal conviction can have long-term negative consequences on your personal life, career, and finances.
A conviction is a conviction, regardless of whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction results in a criminal record.
Your criminal record follows you for the rest of your life. It could be difficult to obtain the job you desire or apply for college with a criminal record.
Some criminal records negatively impact custody cases and rental applications. In some cases, a person might not be able to obtain a professional license with a criminal record.
A criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid a criminal record by fighting the misdemeanor charges. If you have a misdemeanor conviction, a criminal defense lawyer can explore record expungement or setting aside your record in certain circumstances.
Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the criminal justice system is complicated. None of the members of the court staff are permitted to give you legal advice. The prosecutor is only interested in a conviction, and the judge is not there to protect your legal rights.
If you face the criminal justice system without a lawyer, you are alone. You are responsible for understanding your legal rights, the charges against you, criminal laws, and court procedures.
You alone are responsible for investigating the charges against you, gathering evidence, developing a defense strategy, and arguing your case in court. However, you do not need to be alone.
You can have a legal advocate on your side by hiring a criminal defense lawyer to handle your misdemeanor charge. When you hire a lawyer, your lawyer handles all matters related to your criminal case.
When you hire a criminal defense lawyer to handle a misdemeanor charge, your lawyer carefully analyzes your case to determine a defense strategy. There could be one or more legal defenses that could result in a dismissal of the charges or a finding of reasonable doubt.
The prosecutor is not going to tell you about potential defenses and the weaknesses in the case. You need a criminal defense lawyer to do that for you.
If the evidence against you is substantial, your lawyer might advise you to accept a plea bargain. If you decide to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge, your defense attorney negotiates with the prosecutor for the best deal possible, given the facts of your case.
Experienced criminal lawyers understand the potential outcomes based on the facts of a case. They understand the odds better than you. Without a lawyer, you could make a deal that is not in your best interest because you lack the legal experience and knowledge gained from years of handling criminal cases.
The decision is up to you. You have the right to legal counsel when charged with a crime. You also have the right to represent yourself in criminal proceedings.
Given the potential for negative, long-term consequences of a misdemeanor conviction, it is generally best to consult with an attorney before deciding how to proceed with a criminal case. At the very least, you need to understand your legal rights, the charges against you, and your options for fighting those charges.
The cost of a criminal conviction for a misdemeanor could be much higher than the cost of hiring a criminal defense lawyer.
Do not give up your right to a fair and impartial trial by failing to consult with a defense lawyer. You owe it to yourself to do everything within your power to protect your civil rights and freedom.