In Washington, as in most states, misdemeanors are crimes that carry potential jail sentences of less than a year. The state has only two classes of these crimes: The least serious crimes are simply called misdemeanors, while the more serious are classified as gross misdemeanors.
A plain misdemeanor is a the least serious type of crime in Washington. The maximum punishment for a misdemeanor is 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Examples of misdemeanors include:
(Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.20.010, 9A.20.021, 9A.56.270, 9A.88.010, 9A.88.030, 9A.88.110 (2019).)
A gross misdemeanor is any crime that isn't classified as a plain misdemeanor or a felony in Washington. The maximum punishment for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Examples of gross misdemeanors include:
(Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.20.010, 9A.20.021, 9A.46.110, 9A.56.050, 9A.56.220, 26.50.110 (2019).)
In some cases where a defendant gained money or property from a misdemeanor, the judge may order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim instead of a fine. The amount of restitution may be as much as twice the amount of the defendant's gain from the crime. (Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.20.030 (2019).)
A criminal statute of limitations is the deadline for beginning to prosecute a defendant. In Washington, gross misdemeanors may not be prosecuted more than two years after the date of the alleged crime. The statute of limitations for plain misdemeanors is one year. (Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.04.080 (2019).)
If you are charged with any crime, even a misdemeanor, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in Washington to discuss your case. An experienced attorney can tell you how your case is likely to fare in court depending on the applicable law, the facts, and the assigned judge and prosecutor. With an attorney's help, you can hopefully obtain the best outcome possible under the circumstances.
Checking for Legal Changes
States can change their laws any time, but you can use this search tool to find the current version of Washington statutes discussed in this article. Be aware, however, that court decisions can affect how laws are interpreted and applied—another reason to speak with a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential criminal charges.