Misdemeanor charges are considered more serious than petty offenses, but less serious than felonies.
Although the penalties for misdemeanors can include jail time and extensive fines, many people assume that misdemeanor charges aren’t worth fighting and that they won’t lead to life-changing consequences. In this post, the Denver criminal defense lawyers at Wolf Law take a closer look at misdemeanors, explain why they should be taken seriously, and discuss the advantages of working with an experienced defense attorney.
Colorado Misdemeanor Charges and Classifications
Misdemeanor charges may stem from a wide range of crimes, including but not limited to:
- Domestic violence
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Reckless driving
- Resisting arrest
Misdemeanors are categorized by severity with corresponding ranges of penalties. Drug-related misdemeanors are further subdivided into two categories: DM1 and DM2.
Colorado misdemeanor offenses are categorized and sentenced as follows:
|Misdemeanor Class||Minimum Sentence||Maximum Sentence|
|Class 1 (extraordinary risk of harm)||6 months jail, $500 fine or both||24 months jail, $5,000 fine or both|
|Class 1||6 months jail, $500 fine or both||18 months jail, $5,000 fine or both|
|Class 2||3 months jail, $250 fine or both||12 months jail, $1,000 fine or both|
|Class 3||$50 fine||6 months jail, $750 fine or both|
|DM1||6 months jail, $500 fine or both||18 months jail, $5,000 fine or both|
|DM2||$50 fine||12 months jail, $750 fine or both|
A Class 1 misdemeanor that poses an “extraordinary risk of harm” to society includes crimes such as:
- Child abuse
- Failure to register as a sex offender
- Sexual assault
- Second-degree sexual assault
- Third-degree assault
- Unlawful sexual contact
Misdemeanor charges can escalate to Class 1 with extraordinary risk of harm if the victim was performing his or her job duties as a police officer, emergency medical care provider, firefighter, or mental health professional.
Misdemeanor Charges and Probation
In lieu of jail time, some defendants convicted of misdemeanors may seek probation. However, without experienced legal counsel on your side it may be difficult to effectively pursue this option.
The conditions of probation are those that the court deems reasonably necessary to help the defendant avoid future criminal activity and that will best ensure a positive outcome for the defendant and society at large. Conditions for probation may include—but are not limited to—the following criteria:
- No further criminal offenses may be committed during the probation period or the probation is subject to revocation
- Payment of court costs and associated fees or fines
- Payment of any court-stipulated restitution
- Maintain gainful employment or enroll in vocational training
- Undergo any medical or psychiatric treatment as directed by the court
- Refrain from possessing a firearm
- Adhere to any court-ordered substance abuse testing and/or treatment programs
- Wear an electronic monitoring or GPS device as ordered by the court
Probation that involves a defendant under the age of 18 may include mandatory schooling or enrollment in an educational program to ensure the juvenile is working toward a high school diploma or GED.
Collateral Consequences of Misdemeanors
Misdemeanor charges may not be as severe as felonies, but they can still disrupt a person’s life. Employment, family relations, finances and other areas of an individual’s personal life can suffer due to a misdemeanor conviction.
In addition to probation, fines and/or jail time, a misdemeanor conviction can have other unexpected consequences. For example:
- Employment challenges: Colorado is an “employment-at-will” state, which means employers may end an employment relationship without giving either notice or reason; a misdemeanor conviction can end up on background checks and affect an employer’s decision to hire or terminate an employee.
- Housing issues: Renters and housing authorities may deny residence based on certain types of misdemeanor offenses.
- Driver’s license suspension: Driving privileges can be revoked for multiple types of moving violations and certain misdemeanors.
- Loss of Second Amendment rights: Individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses, for example, are prohibited from owning a firearm.
- Loss of professional licenses: Some licensed professionals (such as doctors, nurses or lawyers) may face suspensions or revocations of their licenses following a misdemeanor conviction.
How Can a Denver Defense Lawyer Help?
Individuals who are facing misdemeanor charges—especially those who don’t have criminal records—may have opportunities to mitigate the charges and subsequent sentencing.
Depending on the circumstances, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges dropped altogether, or negotiate for the charges to be reduced. If the case goes to court, a lawyer can argue on your behalf for a lighter sentence.
Even if you plan to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, it’s a good idea to consult first with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your options as well as the potential consequences of a conviction or guilty plea.
If you or a loved one is facing misdemeanor charges in Colorado, the Denver criminal defense lawyers at Wolf Law are ready to hear your story. Please call us today at 720-479-8574 to arrange your complimentary consultation or contact us online to get started now.