When some people hear that a crime is a misdemeanor, they automatically assume the crime is not a big deal. While it is true that the punishment for a misdemeanor is usually much less serious than for a felony, a single misdemeanor can still disrupt your entire life.
Understanding Probation and Conditional Discharge
The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is one year in jail. However, many people who are convicted of a misdemeanor will serve little, if any, jail time. Instead, most will be sentenced to a period of conditional discharge or in some situations, probation. While probation is often preferable to jail time, it is not easy. Depending on the crime for which you are convicted, there will be a set of conditions that you must follow.
Common probation conditions vary based on the offense and can include:
• Paying fines;
• Not committing another crime;
• Submitting to random drug tests;
• Avoiding establishments where alcohol is served;
• No contact with the victim;
• Regular reports to a probation officer; and
• Not leaving the state without permission.
If you fail to obey the conditions of probation, you can be sent to jail, or you can have probation extended. It is possible to be on probation much longer than if you had just served a short jail sentence. You also have fewer rights while on probation.
Background Check Concerns
Once you have been convicted of a crime, even a misdemeanor, it stays on your record forever, unless you qualify to have it removed. This means that anytime you have to have a background check, your conviction will show up. Depending on the conviction, you could be fired from your job for having a conviction. It can difficult to get a new job, find an apartment, get a professional license, or even volunteer at your child’s school once you have a criminal record. Your record can change the way law enforcement interacts with you in the future and make it more difficult if you get into criminal trouble again in the future.
Expungement and Sealing
For some misdemeanors, you may be able to eventually have them removed from your record—or at least sealed so that they do not show up on pre-employment background checks. You will need to ask a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney if you qualify to have your records sealed or the arrest record expunged. If you do qualify, you will be able to have a “clean” record.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor you need to speak with a skilled Will County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Do not talk to anyone else about your case until you have met with a lawyer. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free, confidential consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.