Mississippi Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn how Mississippi law determines which crimes are misdemeanors and what penalties come with those crimes.

By , Legal Editor

Under Mississippi law, a crime is considered a misdemeanor if the maximum possible punishment does not include time in state prison (which makes a crime a felony in Mississippi). Generally, misdemeanors are less serious crimes that are punishable by up to a year to county jail and/or a fine.

Penalties for Misdemeanors in Mississippi

Unlike many other states, Mississippi law doesn't break out misdemeanors into different classes or categories, with the punishment determined by which class the crimes fall into. Rather, the state's criminal statutes spell out the possible penalties for each individual crime. If those penalties don't include time in state prison (in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections), the crime is a misdemeanor, whether or not the statute describes it as such.

Examples of misdemeanors (and their penalties) in Mississippi include:

  • simple assault, including simple domestic violence (up to six months in county jail and/or $500 fine)
  • stalking (up to one year in county jail and/or $1,000 fine)
  • theft of property worth less than $1,000, known as "petit larceny" in Mississippi (up to a year in jail and/or $1,000 fine)
  • possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana ($100-$250 fine)
  • disturbing the peace (up to six months in jail and/or $500 fine)
  • hazing (up to six months in jail and/or $2,000 fine if it results in substantial injury, or only a maximum $2,000 fine if the hazing simply creates a risk of injury), and
  • child abuse or neglect that doesn't cause substantial harm to the child's health (up to one year in jail and/or $1,000 fine)

(Miss. Code §§ 41-29-139(c)(2)(A), 97-3-7, 97-3-105, 97-3-107(1), 97-5-39(1), 97-17-43, 97-35-15 (2020).)

What If a Crime Is Punishable in State Prison or County Jail?

Although crimes that are punishable by time in county jail are generally misdemeanors, the Mississippi statutes for some crimes provide for alternative sentences in jail or prison. For example, the penalty for aggravated assault is up to one year in county jail or up to 20 years in state prison. In these cases, however, even if a court or jury sentences a convicted defendant to county jail (or sometimes only a fine), the crime will still be considered a felony because a prison sentence was a possible punishment. (Anthony v. State, 349 So.2d 1066 (Miss. 1977).)

Statute of Limitations: When Can You Be Charged With a Misdemeanor in Mississippi?

Prosecutors have a limited period of time (known as the "statute of limitations") for bringing most criminal charges. The criminal statute of limitations in Mississippi for misdemeanors is usually two years from the time of the alleged crime; however, some circumstances can temporarily stop the "clock." (Miss. Code § 99-1-5 (2020).)

Getting Legal Help

If you're facing any criminal charges—even for a relatively minor misdemeanor—you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced local attorney can explain how Mississippi law applies to your situation, determine if you have any grounds for getting the charges dismissed, explore your options for a plea bargain to avoid or reduce any jail time, represent you at trial if it comes to that, and protect your rights through the criminal proceedings.

And if you've already been convicted of a misdemeanor, a criminal defense attorney can help you through the process of petitioning to have the crime expunged from your criminal record in Mississippi.

Look for Legal Changes

The Mississippi legislature may change its laws at any time; to find the current versions of criminal statutes discussed in this article, search the Mississippi Code. However, court opinions may affect how laws are interpreted and applied, which is another reason to consult a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential criminal charges.

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