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
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 12, 2024

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 in county jail and a fine.

How Does Mississippi Classify Misdemeanors?

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.

What Are the Penalties for Misdemeanors in Mississippi?

Most misdemeanors carry maximum jail sentences of six months or one year and fines of $500, $1,000, or $2,000.

Examples of Penalties for Mississippi Misdemeanors

Examples of misdemeanors and their penalties in Mississippi include:

  • disturbing the peace: up to six months in jail and a $500 fine
  • hazing: a maximum $2,000 fine or, if hazing results in substantial injury, up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine
  • malicious mischief: up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • petit larceny: up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • prostitution: up to six months in county jail and a $200 fine
  • simple assault, including simple domestic violence: up to six months in county jail and a $500 fine
  • stalking: up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine, and
  • trespass: up to six months in county jail and a $500 fine.

Maximum penalties for a crime can be found in the Mississippi Code. But know that having prior convictions and other factors can increase or affect the maximum penalty. It's best to consult an attorney for complete information on charges.

(Miss. Code §§ 97-3-7, 97-3-105, 97-3-107(1), 97-17-43, 97-17-67, 97-17-97, 97-29-49, 97-35-15 (2024).)

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

Although crimes punishable by time in county jail are generally misdemeanors, the Mississippi statutes for some crimes provide 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).)

When Misdemeanors Become Felonies in Mississippi

Like many states, Mississippi provides enhanced penalties for repeat offenders. A person charged with a second, third, or subsequent misdemeanor might face felony charges. The law also increases some penalties when the defendant targets a victim in a hate crime.

Enhanced Felony Charges for Repeat Misdemeanors

Several misdemeanor crimes in the Mississippi Code impose felony penalties for repeat offenses. For example, a second misdemeanor stalking conviction carries felony penalties of up to five years in prison and a $3,000 fine. Felony penalties also apply to a third or subsequent misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence, indecent exposure, and shoplifting. Typically, the law provides a "look-back" period so that only more current convictions count toward the felony enhancement—for example, three or more convictions in the past seven years.

(Miss. Code §§ 97-3-7, 97-3-107, 97-23-93, 97-29-31 (2024).)

Increased Penalties for Hate Crimes and Crimes of Violence

Mississippi law also doubles the penalties for misdemeanor hate crimes and crimes of violence against the elderly.

Hate crimes. A defendant who targets a crime victim based on actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or gender can receive up to double the punishment provided in law. This hate crime enhancement also applies when a defendant targets a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or EMT because of their job.

Elderly victims. Committing crimes of violence against a person age 65 or older doubles the possible punishment for the underlying offense.

(Miss. Code §§ 99-19-301, 99-19-307, 99-19-351, 99-19-357 (2024).)

How Long Do Prosecutors Have to File Misdemeanor Charges 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 most misdemeanors is two years from the time of the alleged crime. If a prosecutor files charges after the two-year limitations period has passed, the defendant can ask the court to dismiss those charges.

(Miss. Code § 99-1-5 (2024).)

Getting Legal Help

If you're facing any criminal charges—even for a relatively minor misdemeanor—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.

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