Misdemeanors are crimes that upon conviction require a defendant to pay fines and serve less than a year in jail. They are less serious crimes than felonies, which lead to a year imprisonment or more for convicted defendants.
There are many, many crimes that are considered misdemeanors under Tennessee law. Some of these include:
- Assault – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-101;
- Disorderly Conduct – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-305;
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-403;
- Gambling promotion – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-503;
- Indecent exposure – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-511;
- Prostitution – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-513;
- Public Indecency – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-517;
- Public Intoxication – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-310;
- Reckless endangerment – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-103;
- Simple possession or casual exchange – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418;
- Stalking – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-315;
- Taking fish caught by another – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-206;
- Theft of property of $1,000 or less – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-105;
- Unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1307;
- Unlawful photographing in violation of privacy – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-605;
- Violation of an order of protection or restraining order – Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-113;
Misdemeanors are classified into three different types – Class A, Class B, and Class C. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-110. Tennessee law further explains what the range of punishment is these different types of misdemeanors:
The authorized terms of imprisonment and fines for misdemeanors are:
(1) Class A misdemeanor, not greater than eleven (11) months, twenty-nine (29) days or a fine not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or both, unless otherwise provided by statute;
(2) Class B misdemeanor, not greater than six (6) months or a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500), or both, unless otherwise provided by statute; and
(3) Class C misdemeanor, not greater than thirty (30) days or a fine not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00), or both, unless otherwise provided by statute.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111(e). Thus, a Class A misdemeanor is more serious than a Class B, which is more serious than a Class C.
Oftentimes, a first offense of certain crimes may be classified as a misdemeanor but subsequent convictions may take a defendant into the felony range. A good example of this concerns the crime of driving under the influence. Tennessee law provides that a first offense DUI, a second offense DUI, and even a third offense DUI are classified as misdemeanors. However, a fourth offense DUI is considered a felony. Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-403.
Another example is that the crime of assault is considered either a Class A misdemeanor or a Class B misdemeanor. However, the crime of aggravated assault moves from a misdemeanor to a felony. Aggravated assault is either a Class C or D felony.
In Tennessee, a judge has the ability to set a separate sentencing hearing for a defendant convicted of a misdemeanor. The judge also has the power to set the percentage of time that a defendant must serve – at either zero percent, ten percent, twenty percent, thirty percent, forty percent, fifty percent, sixty percent, or seventy percent. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-302(d).
If the crime is a misdemeanor, the judge also has the power to give a defendant probation after the defendant serves a portion of the sentence or to place a defendant on probation immediately. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-302(e). If a defendant is a first-time offender, there is a significant chance that the defendant may be able to get probation instead of have to spend a significant amount of time in jail. This varies significantly though depending on the specific facts of the crime, the criminal defense attorney representing the defendant, the prosecutor, and the judge who is doing the sentencing.
Sometimes prosecutors initially will charge a defendant with felony violations. It often is the job of the criminal defense attorney to try to negotiate with the prosecutor to obtain a plea deal that will lead to only a misdemeanor conviction. For example, let’s say that a defendant is charged with aggravated assault. His attorney might be able to convince a prosecutor to accept a plea arrangement where the defendant pleads guilty to the basic crime of assault, a misdemeanor. An effective criminal defense attorney may be able to convince a prosecutor that the felony charges are not the best resolution to the case. In other words, he may be able to get the prosecutor to agree to a lesser-included offense of the charged crime. Thus, you may be able to plead guilty to a misdemeanor instead of having a felony on your record. There is no guarantee to this, as cases will vary depending on the circumstances and the prior criminal record.
Having a misdemeanor on one’s record is not a good thing. Even a misdemeanor conviction can have serious collateral consequences for a defendant in the community, at his home, or with his or her employer. But, the collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction pale in comparison to the unbelievably large amount of collateral consequences associated with a felony conviction.
If you are charged with either a misdemeanor, you need to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. Philip N. Clark of PNC fits the bill. He is not only an excellent criminal defense attorney but he also has vast experience in law enforcement. This gives him valuable experience that many other criminal defense attorneys do not possess. Philip N. Clark has the experience to handle a wide variety of misdemeanor cases, whether it be driving under the influence, theft, shoplifting, assault, or many other offenses.
Do not try to negotiate with the prosecutor by yourself. You need to retain counsel to be able to negotiate the best deal possible under the circumstances. Philip Clark may be able to even get the charges dismissed – depending on the facts of your case.