Michigan defines a misdemeanor as any offense that is not a felony. While Michigan doesn't classify its misdemeanor offenses, they generally fall under one of three categories based on the possible maximum sentence. This article will review how misdemeanor penalties and sentencing work in Michigan. For information on felonies, see Michigan Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Unlike many other states, Michigan doesn't have misdemeanor classifications (like class A or B). Rather, each crime specifies whether it's a misdemeanor or felony and its applicable sentence. While there are no specified classes, misdemeanors tend to fall into one of three categories based on the maximum possible sentence.
Misdemeanors punishable by up to 93 days in jail can be charged under state or local laws, and some are crimes under both. Most 93-day misdemeanors carry fines of up to $500. Examples of 93-day misdemeanors include assault and battery, petty larceny, and cyberbullying.
Misdemeanors may also carry a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. The maximum fine for a one-year misdemeanor is usually $1,000. Misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail in Michigan include retail fraud in the second degree (shoplifting), intentional discharge of a firearm, fourth-degree child abuse, and raising a false active shooter alarm.
High court misdemeanors (also known as circuit court misdemeanors or serious misdemeanors) carry up to two years of incarceration, plus a typical maximum fine of up to $2,000. Examples of high court misdemeanors include indecent exposure, joyriding (unauthorized use of a vehicle), obstructing a police officer, and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
For property crimes, the law permits a judge to impose the listed fine or a fine that's three times the value of the property stolen, embezzled, destroyed, harmed, or converted. Examples of these property crimes include larceny, embezzlement, arson, and malicious destruction of property.
The Michigan Penal Code imposes enhanced felony charges for certain repeat misdemeanor offenses. Some examples include repeat convictions for child abuse, obstructing a police officer, and food stamp fraud. A misdemeanor can also bump up to a felony if the level of harm or threat of harm increases. For example, cyberbullying increases from a misdemeanor to a felony if a continued pattern of harassment results in serious injury to a victim. And simple assault becomes felonious assault if the person uses a weapon.
Michigan judges typically have broad discretion when handing down misdemeanor sentences.
Michigan law starts with a presumption against jail time for most misdemeanor crimes. Instead, the law directs the judge to impose non-jail sentencing options, such as fines, community service, house arrest, probation, or participation in a treatment court.
The non-jail presumption, however, doesn't apply to "serious misdemeanors." Some examples of serious misdemeanors include assault and battery, breaking and entering, stalking, hit-and-run, impaired driving resulting in an accident, and furnishing alcohol to a minor.
If a victim suffers any injuries or losses due to a crime, the judge will typically order a defendant to pay restitution to the victim.
Michigan also provides judges with alternatives in how they sentence a defendant.
Deferral of adjudication. In some cases, the judge can defer (hold off) on finding a defendant guilty—called a deferral of adjudication—and instead order probation conditions. The law permits deferred adjudication for certain misdemeanor drug offenses, prostitution cases, minor in possession charges, or where the defendant is admitted to a treatment court. If the defendant successfully completes the conditions, the judge dismisses the charges and the case.
Delayed sentencing. Another option judges have is to find the defendant guilty but delay the sentencing for a year. Delayed sentencing is meant to give the defendant time to show that they can be successful on probation and don't need to be sentenced to incarceration.
(Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.8, 769.1a, 769.5, 771.1 (2022).)
If you face misdemeanor charges in Michigan, contact a criminal defense attorney. A conviction for a misdemeanor crime in Michigan can become part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A conviction for even a minor crime can hurt you when you are looking for a job, applying to rent a house or apartment, or applying for a professional license.