Misdemeanor Crimes: Classes and Penalties
Most states and the federal criminal code have classified their misdemeanors into classes or levels.
In all states and under the federal criminal code, a misdemeanor is a crime punishable by incarceration and, sometimes, a fine. A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, but more so than an infraction (which typically does not involve jail time). Many states classify their misdemeanors by grouping the more severe crimes into class A (or level 1), class B (or level 2), and so on. Some states use other terms for each level, such as “misdemeanor,” and “gross misdemeanor.”
The purpose of grouping misdemeanors into classes or levels is to assign punishments that fit the level of the offense. For example, a state might specify that a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in the county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Then, for each misdemeanor crime, the state specifies the class it belongs to. Assault and battery that does not result in significant injury might be a class A misdemeanor, which tells you that the possible punishment would be the terms just noted.
Some states do not classify their misdemeanors—they simply assign a punishment right in the statute that describes or defines the crime. In the example above, for example, such a state would define the crime of simple assault and battery, then give the punishment in the same statute.
States That Classify Misdemeanors by Class or Level
The following states classify their misdemeanor crimes into classes or levels: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Thus, these states have class B or level 2 misdemeanors.
States That Classify Misdemeanors by Unique Terms
In these states, legislators did not use the terms “class” or “level,” but they did group their misdemeanor crimes by severity: Georgia (misdemeanors and misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature), Hawaii (petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor), Iowa (aggravated, serious, or simple), Minnesota (gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or petty misdemeanor), Nevada (gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor), New Jersey (disorderly person offense or petty disorderly person offense), New Mexico (petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor), Rhode Island (misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor), and Washington (gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor).
Misdemeanor Classes Defined
Follow the links below to get general information on misdemeanor classes A, B, and C.
State-specific Information on Ranked Misdemeanors
For information on the crimes that a particular state has placed within its class, level, or other unique ranking system, consult the state links below.
|Alabama||A, B, or C|
|Alaska||A, B, or C|
|Arizona||1, 2 or 3|
|Arkansas||A, B, or C|
|California||By crime; if no punishment specified, up to 6 months, $1,000, or both|
|Colorado||1, 2, 3 or unclassified (by crime)|
|Connecticut||A, B, C, or D; or unclassified (by crime)|
|Delaware||A or B or unclassified|
|Florida||First or second degree|
|Georgia||"Misdemeanors" and "misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature"|
|Hawaii||Petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor|
|Illinois||A, B, or C|
|Indiana||A, B, or C|
|Iowa||Aggravated, serious, or simple|
|Kansas||A, B, C or unclassified (same as C)|
|Kentucky||A or B|
|Maine||D or E|
|Michigan||By term: offenses punishable by incarceration of up to 93 days, or up to one year; and high court misdemeanors|
|Minnesota||Gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or petty misdemeanor|
|Missouri||A, B, or C|
|Nebraska||I, II, III, IIIA, IV, or V|
|Nevada||Gross misdemeanors or misdemeanors|
|New Hampshire||A or B|
|New Jersey||Disorderly person offense or petty disorderly person offense|
|New Mexico||Petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor|
|New York||A, B, or unclassified (by crime)|
|North Carolina||A1, 1, 2, or 3|
|North Dakota||A or B|
|Ohio||First, second, third, fourth, or minor|
|Oregon||A, B, C, or unclassified (by crime)|
|Pennsylvania||First, second, or third degree|
|Rhode Island||Misdemeanor (by crime) or petty misdemeanor (by crime)|
|South Carolina||A, B, or C|
|South Dakota||1 or 2|
|Tennessee||A, B, or C|
|Texas||A, B, or C|
|Utah||A, B, or C|
|Virginia||1, 2, 3, or 4, or by crime|
|Washington||Gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor|
|West Virginia||By crime|
|Wisconsin||A, B, or C|