What is a serious misdemeanor offense, as opposed to an ordinary misdemeanor?

Michigan law defines certain misdemeanors as serious. The phraseology is a bit of a misnomer because a person can serve jail time, lose their job, endure years of probation, and lose their civil rights if convicted of any misdemeanor.

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Domestic Violence, OWI, and Indecent Exposure are a few examples of Serious Misdemeanors.

There are just under 2,000 state-law misdemeanors in Michigan. Misdemeanors carry potential jail time of up to one year and up to two (2) years of probation. Someone convicted of a misdemeanor can also be sentenced to therapy, drug and alcohol treatment, community service, probation, and much more. Some misdemeanors are defined under the law as “serious misdemeanor offenses.”

Serious misdemeanor, as defined in section 61 of the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act. The Act includes a wide range of misdemeanor offenses, such as domestic violence and assault, breaking and entering, child abuse in the fourth degree, certain firearm violations, injuring a worker in a work zone, and specific drunk and drugged driving offenses, among other crimes.

The following are examples of serious misdemeanors under Michigan law:

  • assault and battery
  • domestic violence
  • assault; infliction of serious injury
  • aggravated domestic violence
  • breaking and entering or illegal entry
  • child abuse in the fourth degree
  • contributing to the neglect or delinquency of a minor
  • using the internet or a computer to make a prohibited communication
  • intentionally aiming a firearm without malice
  • discharge of a firearm intentionally aimed at a person.
  • discharge of an intentionally aimed firearm resulting in injury
  • indecent exposure
  • stalking
  • injuring a worker in a work zone
  • leaving the scene of a personal injury accident
  • operating a vehicle while under the influence of or impaired by intoxicating liquor if the violation involves an accident resulting in damage to another individual’s property or physical injury or death to another individual
  • selling or furnishing alcoholic liquor to an individual less than 21 years of age if the violation results in physical injury or death to any individual
  • operating a vessel while under the influence of or impaired if the violation involves an accident resulting in damage to another individual’s property or physical injury or death to any individual.

Serious Misdemeanor v. Ordinary Misdemeanor Offenses

In Michigan, the distinction between a “serious misdemeanor,” as specified in the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act, and an ordinary misdemeanor revolves around the potential impact on the victim and the severity of the penalties involved.

A “serious misdemeanor” under the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act is defined not just by the potential jail time or fines but by the nature of the crime and its impact on the victim. This Act was established to ensure that victims of certain crimes are provided with specific rights within the criminal justice system. Crimes classified under this category are considered more severe due to their direct harm or potential harm to victims, encompassing offenses that might result in physical injury, financial loss, or significant emotional distress. Victims of such misdemeanors are afforded rights like notification of court proceedings, the opportunity to make a statement during sentencing, and to be treated with sensitivity and respect throughout the legal process.

Ordinary misdemeanors, while still criminal offenses, typically involve less severe penalties and may not necessarily entail the same level of victim impact. These can range from minor infractions like petty theft or disorderly conduct to other low-level crimes. The distinction essentially lies in the recognition of the victim’s experience and the provision of rights and protections to those affected by more serious offenses.

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What You Need to Know About Serious Misdemeanor Sentencing

Facing a misdemeanor charge in Michigan, particularly one designated as “serious,” underscores the necessity of having an experienced and effective defense attorney by your side. Unlike ordinary misdemeanors, where there is a rebuttable presumption against jail time or probation, serious misdemeanors do not carry this presumption. This distinction means that if you’re convicted of a serious misdemeanor, the likelihood of facing jail time or enduring years of probation increases significantly.

An experienced defense attorney brings to the table a deep understanding of the nuances of Michigan’s legal system and the specific challenges posed by serious misdemeanors. They possess the knowledge and skills to navigate the complexities of your case, providing a tailored defense strategy aimed at minimizing the potential consequences. By challenging the prosecution’s evidence and arguing for the least restrictive sentence possible, a skilled attorney can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case.

Furthermore, an effective defense attorney can negotiate with prosecutors, potentially leading to reduced charges or even a dismissal in some cases. Their familiarity with local courts, judges, and legal precedents enables them to advocate persuasively on your behalf, presenting mitigating factors and alternative sentencing options that highlight rehabilitation over punishment.

The impact of a serious misdemeanor conviction goes beyond immediate penalties; it can affect your employment, housing, and future opportunities. Thus, investing in a defense attorney who is well-versed in handling serious misdemeanors in Michigan is not just about fighting a current charge—it’s about protecting your future. An attorney’s expertise and proactive defense can be your most valuable asset in facing the legal challenges ahead, ensuring that your rights are defended and your voice is heard throughout the legal process.

Expungement of Misdemeanor Convictions

Most serious misdemeanor offenses are eligible for expungement. In Michigan, the expungement process, which is legally known as setting aside a conviction, allows individuals to have certain criminal convictions removed from their public record, potentially easing the burden of past mistakes on their future. The state has made significant changes to its expungement laws through the “Clean Slate” initiative, expanding eligibility for expungement and automating the process for certain offenses. However, the distinction between a “serious misdemeanor” and a misdemeanor not designated as “serious” under the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act does play a role in how expungement is handled.

For “serious misdemeanors,” the process and eligibility criteria can be stricter compared to ordinary misdemeanors. “Serious misdemeanors” often involve crimes with a greater perceived impact on victims, and as such, the law may impose longer waiting periods before these offenses are eligible for expungement, or require more stringent scrutiny during the expungement process.

Judges in district court are sometimes reluctant to set aside a conviction for a serious misdemeanor. They are most concerned about convictions involving any assault, stalking, or substance or alcohol abuse. If someone files an expungement motion on their own, or with an attorney who is not proficient with criminal defense, the risk of losing is significant. If an expungement is denied, you cannot seek relief again for a minimum of three (3) years. Once a judge declines a request, it can be like moving a mountain to get them to change their mind, even after a prolonged period. If you seek an expungement, it is best to work with the best lawyer possible so that your odds of success are maximized.

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Lawyers With Decades of Experience Successfully Defending Clients

If you are charged or accused of any crime, including violating any of the above serious misdemeanor offenses in Oakland County, Wayne County, Washtenaw County, or anywhere in Southeastern Michigan, please call the good and affordable defense lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for a free consultation. We will take the time to talk with you, answer all of your questions, and address all of your concerns. We will find a way to help you!

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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