New York, like most states, divides crimes into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses and carry the possibility of up to 364 days in jail, whereas a felony can mean prison time of a year or more. This article will review misdemeanor charges and possible penalties under New York law.
In New York, a misdemeanor is any crime with a possible jail sentence of 15 to 364 days. New York has two classes of misdemeanors, class A and B, and a category of unclassified misdemeanors.
Class A misdemeanors carry penalties of up to 364 days in jail and a fine in the amount of $1,000 fine or double what the defendant gained from the crime. Examples of class A misdemeanors include:
(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.00, 130.52, 145.60, 155.25, 156.05 (2022).)
Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine in the amount of $500 or double what the defendant gained from the crime. Examples of class B misdemeanors include:
(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.45, 240.25, 240.36, 245.00 (2022).)
Some misdemeanors (such as those in the state's vehicle and traffic laws) are unclassified. When that's the case, the specific law or ordinance will generally state the potential penalties. Some common unclassified misdemeanors include:
(N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law §§ 511, 1192, 1193, 1212, 1801 (2022).)
Offenses that carry potential penalties of 15 days or less in jail or only a fine are considered violations rather than crimes.
In New York, certain repeat misdemeanors or misdemeanors committed against protected classes can lead to felony charges.
For instance, a defendant will face a felony charge for a second misdemeanor committed against a family or household member within five years. Referred to as an aggravated family offense, this enhancement applies to over 50 misdemeanors. A second DWI is another example where a misdemeanor becomes a felony.
In some instances, the circumstances of an offense will enhance the penalties. A hate crime, for example, will enhance a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony. And assault goes from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony when the person assaults an emergency worker, health care worker, animal control officer, or other protected employee in an attempt to prevent them from doing their jobs
(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.05, 240.75, 485.10; N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1193 (2022).)
After a misdemeanor conviction, the judge may sentence the defendant to some combination of any or all of the following: incarceration, probation, and a fine. The judge may also include restitution or reparation as part of the sentence.
A defendant may be sentenced to probation if the judge believes incarceration isn't necessary for public protection, but the defendant needs the kind of help that probation supervision can provide. The law limits probation terms to two to three years for most class A misdemeanors and one year for most other misdemeanors.
(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 10.0, 55.10, 60.01, 60.27, 65.00, 70.15, 80.05 (2022).)
If you're facing misdemeanor charges in New York, it's important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows the prosecutors and judges in your local area can realistically assess your case and give you advice about what to do. If you speak to investigators or make any decision about your case without first consulting an attorney, you could potentially damage your ability to defend yourself against any charges.