Maryland Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

In Maryland, sentences for misdemeanors can range from 30 days in jail or a fine to several years in prison. Learn how sentencing works in the state.

By , Legal Editor
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated June 16, 2023

Maryland takes a crime-specific approach to misdemeanor and felony penalties. In most states, the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is based on the potential sentence, with misdemeanors punishable by a year or less in jail and felonies punishable by more than a year in prison. But Maryland laws designate the offense level and penalty by crime. Some misdemeanors carry potential sentences of imprisonment for several years—even as long as 10 or 20 years—while the maximum sentences for a few felonies in Maryland are as short as a year. Read on to learn more about Maryland misdemeanor crimes and sentences.

How Maryland Classifies and Punishes Misdemeanor Crimes

To give you an idea of the range of crimes that Maryland labels as misdemeanors—and the potential sentences for those crimes—here are some examples:

  • Second-degree assault: up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $2,500 fine.
  • Child neglect: up to 5 years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
  • Cyberbullying: up to 3 years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
  • Stalking: up to 5 years of imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
  • Theft of property (valued at $100 to $1,499): up to 6 months of imprisonment and a $500 fine, plus a requirement to restore the stolen property or pay the owner its value.
  • Disorderly conduct: up to 60 days of imprisonment and a $500 fine.
  • Use of an assault weapon during a felony or violent crime: at least 5 years and up to 20 years of imprisonment.

(Md. Code, Crim. Law §§ 3-203, 3-602.1, 3-802, 3-805, 4-306, 7-104, 10-201 (2023).)

Enhanced Misdemeanor Charges in Maryland

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor and have a previous conviction for the same crime, you may face stiffer penalties. Some laws simply increase the maximum allowable penalty, while others add a mandatory minimum sentence for a second or subsequent offense. For instance:

  • Carrying a handgun without a permit: The penalty for a first offense must be at least 30 days and no more than 5 years of imprisonment and a $250 to $2,500 fine. For a second offense, the sentence of incarceration increases to at least 1 year and no more than 10 years.
  • Driving under the influence: A first offense carries up to 1 year of imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. For a second offense, the maximum penalty increases to 2 years of imprisonment and a $2,000 fine, plus there's a mandatory minimum of 5 days in jail if the second offense was within 5 years of the previous conviction.

(Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-203; Md. Code, Trans. § 21-902 (2023).)

How Does Misdemeanor Sentencing Work in Maryland?

The laws for each misdemeanor in Maryland establish the maximum allowable penalty for that crime—and sometimes a mandatory minimum penalty. Within those limits, it's up to the judge to decide the actual penalty to impose in any case after considering the circumstances of the crime, as well as the defendant's background. For most misdemeanors, judges may impose fines, either alone or along with a sentence of incarceration.

Suspended Sentences and Alternatives to Incarceration in Maryland

Under some circumstances, Maryland judges may suspend all or part of a sentence for incarceration and place the defendant on probation, with conditions. Those conditions may include home detention or successful completion of an inpatient drug or alcohol treatment.

(Md. Code, Crim. Proc. §§ 6-219, 6-221, 6-225, 6-230 (2023).)

Maryland's Sentencing Guidelines

Maryland has complicated sentencing guidelines and worksheets to help judges make their sentencing decisions. The sentencing guidelines provide a recommended sentence length and disposition of incarceration or probation. Although judges must consider these guidelines, they aren't legally required to follow them.

(Md. Code, Crim. Proc. § 6-216 (2023).)

Will You Serve a Misdemeanor Sentence in Jail or Prison?

If you're sentenced to incarceration for 12 months or less, you'll serve that time in a local jail, unless you're sentenced in Baltimore City or you committed the crime while you were in prison. For a sentence between 12 and 18 months, the judge may order you to serve the time in a local jail or state prison. Any sentence longer than 18 months, even if it's for a misdemeanor, would be served in state prison.

(Md. Code, Corr. Serv. §§ 9-104, 9-105, 9-106 (2023).)

Misdemeanor Statutes of Limitations in Maryland

A "statute of limitations" is a deadline for starting legal proceedings—filing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit. In criminal cases, the time period starts when the alleged crime took place (although the "clock" may pause under certain limited circumstances). For misdemeanors, the criminal statute of limitations in Maryland is generally one year, but there are many exceptions. For example, charges for misdemeanor theft may be brought within two years, and the statute of limitations for computer crimes is three years.

(Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-106 (2023); Md. Code, Crim. Law § 7-104 (2023).)

The Value of Good Representation

A conviction for a misdemeanor crime in Maryland can have serious consequences. In addition to the possibility of a long prison sentence for more serious misdemeanors, a criminal record for even a minor crime can hurt you when you're looking for a job or an apartment. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial.

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