In Washington, D.C., as in most U.S. states, a misdemeanor is a crime that may be punished by no more than a year jail. In contrast, felonies in the District of Columbia are more-serious crimes that carry a potential sentence of more than a year in prison.
Unlike many states that group misdemeanors in different classes for purposes of sentencing, the District of Columbia sets the maximum penalties on a crime-by-crime basis. If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, it’s up to the judge to decide on the appropriate sentence—a term in jail and/or a fine—within the legal limits for that crime.
The laws for some misdemeanors in the District of Columbia require stiffer penalties when the defendant has one or more previous convictions for the same crime. For example:
(D.C. Code §§ 22-3134, 22-3212, 50-2206.13 (2020).)
Along with the option of imposing only a fine for a misdemeanor, judges in Washington, D.C. may impose a suspended jail sentence and place you on probation. Probation may take the place of any jail time (as long as you meet the conditions), or it may be part of a “split sentence,” meaning that you would serve some time in jail and some time on probation. (D.C. Code § 16-710 (2020).)
Here are a few examples of crimes treated as misdemeanors in the District of Columbia, along with their statutory penalties:
(D.C. Code §§ 22-404, 22-1001, 22-1321, 22-2752, 22-3311, 48-904.01 (2020).)
Even though misdemeanor charges are less serious than felonies, a conviction can still have negative consequences. It might affect your ability to land a job or rent an apartment. And if you get in trouble with the law again, a previous conviction could subject you to a stiffer sentence. So if you’re facing any criminal charges, it’s important to speak with a local criminal defense lawyer who can protect your rights throughout the proceedings and help you get the best outcome possible under the circumstances.