It seems like people are often quick to brush off misdemeanor charges as no big deal. After all, it’s not a felony, right?! Wrong.
Misdemeanor charges in Oklahoma can range from assault to breaking an entering to DUI to theft — and more. Just because those charges aren’t as serious as, say, murder or armed robbery doesn’t mean they can’t have an everlasting impact on your life.
Being charged with a misdemeanor versus a felony should not change your decision to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight the charges on your behalf.
The key difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is the punishment you could receive if you’re convicted.
Your chances of being sentenced to time behind bars are much higher for a felony, but you could end up in jail for a misdemeanor as well. Generally, a misdemeanor charge will carry a maximum prison sentence of less than one year.
For example, if you’re convicted of assault in Oklahoma, you could be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail and be forced to pay a fine of up to $500.
And even after you’re completed whatever sentence associated with a misdemeanor conviction, that conviction could haunt you permanently by remaining on your criminal record. Having a criminal record can negatively affect your chances of finding a good job or solid housing. It can also hurt your reputation, as criminal convictions are public record for anyone to see.
How can a lawyer help with misdemeanors?
A criminal defense attorney will go through every aspect of your case. They’ll make sure the police followed the laws if they searched your home or vehicle, and they’ll look for holes in the charges.
They’re also skilled at negotiating plea deals with prosecutors that could end with you not having a criminal conviction on your record. How? They can help you get an expungement of your criminal record, which is a complicated process for wiping your record clean. Just like you can defend yourself in court, you can also file your own paperwork for an expungement, but it’s highly discouraged.
There’s a lot of legalese, paperwork and technical tasks that must be done to successfully defend misdemeanor charges, and the same goes for expungements.
If you’re charged with a crime, whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony, you have the right to an attorney. But it’s up to you to ask for one.