A misdemeanor charge in Alabama is a serious matter that can have just as serious consequences if a conviction follows. It can upend your life, so fighting the charge is often your best option. Of course, many factors should be considered if, when, and how a misdemeanor is fought.
At Segal and Segal, our criminal defense lawyer in Huntsville and Madison County will review any misdemeanors in your case, explain what those charges mean, and advise you on your best legal options. Contact us at (256) 533-4529 today to schedule a consultation and get the best representation you need in your unique circumstances.
What Constitutes a Misdemeanor in Alabama?
Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are more serious than infractions but less severe than felonies. These cases are typically held in the lower courts, and convictions can sometimes be appealed to higher-level courts.
Any misdemeanor in Alabama can potentially result in jail and or fines. In addition, if a misdemeanor involves a victim (instead of a property crime), a sentence could also include an order to pay restitution. Likewise, in cases involving chemical substances, the court could also order the defendant to attend rehabilitation or another drug or alcohol court program.
Alabama classifies misdemeanors to distinguish their degree of severity or importance. These classifications are set up using a letter to identify the severity level of the misdemeanor charge.
Class A Misdemeanors
Class A misdemeanors are the most severe offenses when, not including felony offenses. In terms of misdemeanors, Class A convictions will result in harsher punishment, two of which include:
- Incarceration of up to a year in jail; and
- A fine as high as $6000.
Examples of some crimes qualifying as Class A misdemeanors include:
- Domestic violence, Third Degree
- Theft of property with a value of $500 or less
- Assault, Third Degree
- Reckless Endangerment
- Criminal Mischief, Second Degree
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
- DUI for a first, second, or third offense
- Cruelty to a Dog or Cat
- Dog Fighting
- Assault with Bodily Fluids
- Possession of Marijuana for personal use
- Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree
- Some traffic offenses, like reckless driving or leaving the scene of an accident without injuries
Many Class A misdemeanors can become felonies if certain aggravating circumstances exist, like assaulting someone with a weapon or killing someone while drinking and driving.
Class B Misdemeanors
Class B misdemeanors are less severe than Class A but more severe than Class C. Punishment can result in the following:
- Incarceration of up to six months in jail; and/or
- Fines of up to $3000.00
Class B misdemeanors often include crimes such as:
- Resisting Arrest
- Stalking in the Second Degree
- Cruelty to Animals
- Tampering with a witness
- Having an Open House Party
Class C Misdemeanors
Class C misdemeanors are the least serious misdemeanor offenses but can still result in jail and fines.
Class C misdemeanor punishment can result in the following:
- Incarceration of up to three months in jail; and/or
- Fines of up to $500.00
- Harassment and Harassing Communications
- Public Lewdness
- Disorderly conduct
- Some kinds of Trespassing
Remember that some types of crimes can qualify for multiple levels depending on various factors. The category assigned to a criminal charge depends on the severity or extent of the alleged crime, facts, and circumstances.
Collateral Consequences of Misdemeanor Charges in Alabama
The collateral consequences for misdemeanors are not as severe as those that follow convictions of felonies, but they still can have long-term detrimental effects.
Lifestyle-Based Collateral Consequences
A misdemeanor can impact your quality of life and impact your housing, transportation, and immigration situations.
- Housing. In some jurisdictions, a misdemeanor can disqualify a person from affordable or subsidized housing programs.
- Rentals. Some property owners and managers may choose not to rent a space to someone convicted of misdemeanor offenses. If you currently rent, you and your family could be evicted if the misdemeanor violates the contract or another rule, law, or agreement.
- Driving. Some misdemeanors, like those specific to DUI offenses, can lead to suspending driving privileges.
- Immigration. Some misdemeanors, like those specific to moral turpitude (e.g., Prostitution), can result in deportation or the denial of an immigration status adjustment.
- Civil Rights. A domestic violence conviction, even if a misdemeanor, can result in losing your right to own or use a firearm.
Employment-Based Collateral Consequences
Some misdemeanors can have a deep impact on job opportunities or a career.
- Public employment. You may have to provide the status of any misdemeanor convictions on an application, specifically when applying for positions for a public or government employer. This can include teaching positions to military positions. Lesser misdemeanors may not impact your eligibility, but Class A misdemeanors can affect public, government, or military employment.
- Children and elderly. A misdemeanor can disqualify someone from working with vulnerable people, especially children and the elderly. Often it depends on the type of crime.
- Professional licenses. A misdemeanor can result in the loss or disqualification of a professional license, and this is true even when the crime is unrelated to the profession.
- Associations. A person can be barred from certain memberships necessary for employment, like state bars, real estate associations, and medical boards.
- Businesses. Business owners convicted of certain misdemeanors may be unable to obtain business loans, especially those from the Small Business Administration.
Education-Related Collateral Consequences
Misdemeanors may affect a person's ability to seek or continue their educational path.
- Admissions. Some misdemeanor convictions may result in delays or denials of college applications.
- Financial Aid. A college student or prospective student may be disqualified from financial aid if convicted of drug charges or even misdemeanors of possession of controlled substances.
- Housing. College students could be denied or removed from college housing for some misdemeanor charges, especially those related to assault or possession of chemical substances.
- Discipline. When a current student commits a crime, especially on campus, the school may discipline them. Disciplinary action can result in additional penalties, like academic discipline, suspension, or expulsion.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Alabama to Fight a Misdemeanor Charge?
The answer to this question is always a relative one. However, if you seek to avoid any consequences of a misdemeanor conviction in Alabama, then it is best to seek the representation of a qualified criminal defense lawyer. The following are a few reasons why you need a criminal defense lawyer.
- Your charges could be reduced from a felony or a Class A misdemeanor. If the facts support a lesser charge, your attorney can argue the same using their negotiation skills on your behalf.
- Your misdemeanor could become a felony. Felonies carry more serious consequences. Your attorney will want to show, in part, that the State does not have the legal requirements to charge the crime as a felony.
- You want your rights protected. You have certain constitutional rights when arrested and charged with a crime. Your attorney will ensure your rights are upheld, and if they have been violated, your attorney can take proper action that could lead to a dismissal of charges.
- You want less time in jail and/or reduced fines. Statistics show that those who fight misdemeanor charges tend to spend less time in jail and less in fines. Often that is because the attorney has effectively represented their client.
- You prefer legal guidance. If you want the benefits of a qualified criminal defense attorney, seeking help from our law firm may be in your best interests.
At Segal and Segal, our criminal defense lawyer will help you in all of the above and more ways. The strategy we develop will be based on the law and persuasive argument, as much as it will be based on the facts and any available defenses.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Huntsville and Madison County Today
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in Alabama, it is in your best interest to retain a smart criminal defense lawyer who can help you get the best outcome in your unique situation.
At Segal and Segal, our criminal defense team will defend your interests and uphold your rights as we represent your case. We take your defense seriously and use our resources effectively and efficiently. Contact us today by filling out our online form or calling us at (256) 533-4529 to schedule a consultation.