Oregon, like all states, divides crimes into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses, punishable by jail time of less than one year. Felonies are more serious crimes and carry possible prison terms.
Read on to learn how Oregon law classifies and punishes misdemeanor offenses. More information on felony crimes can be found here.
Oregon law divides misdemeanor offenses into four different categories: class A, B, and C, and unclassified misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors are generally the most serious type of misdemeanor, while class C misdemeanors are the least serious. Below are the maximum penalties and examples of misdemeanor offenses by class.
Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $6,250, or both. Reckless driving, prostitution, fourth-degree assault, and menacing are examples of class A misdemeanors. Also, if a statute designates a crime as a misdemeanor but fails to classify and set a penalty for it, the offense is punishable as a class A misdemeanor.
A conviction for a class B misdemeanor in Oregon can result in up to six months in jail, a fine of as much as $2,500, or both. Examples of class B misdemeanors include harassment, carrying a concealed weapon, and second-degree disorderly conduct.
Class C misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,250, or both. Theft of property (less than $100), third-degree criminal mischief, and failure to carry a driver's license are class C misdemeanors.
Unclassified misdemeanors don't specify a misdemeanor class. Rather, they provide a penalty in the law for that particular offense. (To be a misdemeanor, that penalty can't exceed 364 days' incarceration). Sometimes, you'll hear this offense referred to as a class U misdemeanor.
Judges can impose stiffer fines than those listed above if a defendant gained money or property through the offense. The law permits a fine that's double the amount gained in the offense.
(Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 161.555, 161.615, 161.635 (2022).)
Certain Oregon misdemeanors carry enhanced felony penalties for repeat offenses. For instance, a defendant convicted of first-degree disorderly conduct will face a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class C felony for any subsequent offenses. Stalking crimes carry a similar enhancement. A first conviction for stalking is a class A misdemeanor. But if the defendant has a prior conviction for stalking or violating a stalking protective order, the penalty becomes a class C felony. A class C felony carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
Judges have several sentencing options for misdemeanor convictions, including jail, probation, fines, community service, and restitution orders. When deciding on a sentence, judges will consider the severity of the offense, the harm to victims, the defendant's record of prior crimes, and the defendant's willingness to accept responsibility. The more serious the crime or offender is, the more likely a defendant will spend time in jail.
A statute of limitations is the period of time during which the state must begin criminal prosecution. The statute of limitations begins to "run" when the crime occurs. In Oregon, misdemeanors typically have two-year statutes of limitations. (Or. Rev. Stat. § 131.125 (2022).)
Although misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, they shouldn't be taken lightly. A misdemeanor conviction can mean jail time and hefty fines. Plus, having any criminal record can enhance future charges and affect your ability to get a job, loan, or housing. If you are being investigated or have been charged with an offense, you should talk to a local criminal defense attorney. Seeking legal advice from a lawyer who has experience defending clients in local courts is the best way to ensure that your legal rights are protected at every stage of the criminal justice process.