In Idaho, misdemeanors are crimes that may be punished by a year or less in county jail and/or a fine. In contrast, felonies in Idaho are punishable by incarceration in state prison or death. (Idaho Code § 18-111 (2020).)
Unlike many states, Idaho doesn't group misdemeanors into different classes for purposes of sentencing. Rather, the laws for most crimes provide the maximum sentence for that offense. If a law defines a crime as a misdemeanor but doesn't designate the penalty, the maximum punishment will be six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A few low-level misdemeanors carry only a fine as a penalty, with no potential for a jail sentence. For instance, aiming a gun at someone (without malice) is punishable by a fine of $5-$1,000 (Idaho Code § 18-3304 (2020).)
Within the limits set by the relevant criminal statutes, it's up to the judge to decide the appropriate sentence in any criminal case. (Idaho Code §§ 18-113 (2020).)
If the victim suffered a financial loss as a result of the crime, the judge may order the defendant to pay restitution, along with any other penalties. (Idaho Code § 19-5304 (2020).)
Several of the more serious misdemeanors in Idaho carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. These include:
(Idaho Code §§ 18-904, 18-2408, 18-7906, 37-2732(c) (2020).)
The standard misdemeanor sentence—up to six months in jail and/or $1,000—applies to many relatively minor crimes, such as disturbing the peace, hazing, and carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated. (Idaho Code §§ 18-917, 18-6409, 18-3302b (2020).)
A few misdemeanors in Idaho—including drunk driving and misdemeanor domestic violence—carry stiffer sentences if you've had a previous conviction for the same crime within a certain period of time, and they're treated as felonies with two previous convictions. (Idaho Code §§ 18-918(3), 18-8005 (2020).)
Under Idaho state policy, judges should consider placing convicted defendants in the community rather than in jail, after considering the individual circumstances. If you've been convicted of a misdemeanor, the judge may choose one of the sentencing alternatives, including:
(Idaho Code §§ 19-2521, 19-2601 (2020).)
As in other states, prosecutors in Idaho must bring charges for most crimes within a certain period of time after the crime was allegedly committed. Known as a criminal statute of limitations, the time limit in Idaho is one year for almost all misdemeanors. (Idaho Code § 19-403(2020).)
Even though a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, a conviction can still have long-term negative consequences in your life—such as making it hard to get a job or housing. Any time you're facing criminal charges, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer who is familiar with the local criminal system and cases like yours can determine whether you have grounds to get the charges dismissed, negotiate a favorable plea bargain if that's appropriate, and protect your rights throughout the proceedings.
Look Out for Legal Changes
States may change their laws any time, but you can find the current version of any statute mentioned in this article with the Idaho Legislature's search tool. But be aware that court opinions can affect the way laws are interpreted and applied—another good reason to speak with a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential criminal charges.