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.
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:
(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).)
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).)
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).)
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.