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About Penalties for Misdemeanors and Felonies

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Kush Arora.

What are the penalties for being convicted of a misdemeanor offense?

Kush Arora: The penalties for misdemeanor offenses can range from a fine all the way up to a significant amount of jail time. The most serious misdemeanor offense is assault in the second degree, or simple assault, which carries up to 10 years of jail time. Felony penalties range as well. There is no felony charge that carries just a fine, they all carry jail time as a starting point, but that jail time can range from something reasonably short all the way up to life in prison. There are varying penalties that are associated with these cases. There are sentencing guidelines in Maryland that assist judges in determining what an appropriate sentence is, but the judges have a great deal of time to play with, depending on the kinds of offenses that somebody is alleged to have committed.

How can a misdemeanor conviction impact someone’s future?

Kush Arora: The impact that misdemeanor convictions have on somebody’s future is not quite as significant as that of a felony conviction. Most of the time, the effects are short-term. There are usually points affiliated with a misdemeanor conviction for a DUI or a driving while suspended violation. Those points can have an impact on somebody’s ability to drive, maintain their driver’s license, or their auto insurance premiums. Employers might need to be made aware of misdemeanor convictions as well. Where people probably see the most significant impact is in any kind of probation that they might be facing. Probation can involve doing community service, paying fees, or attending certain education classes, which can take a toll on somebody’s day-to-day life. There may also the added expense of probation supervision fees and the fees associated with attending programs that the court might instruct one to attend. That’s primarily where somebody would see impact when it comes to misdemeanor cases.

What are the long-term consequences of a felony conviction?

Kush Arora: A felony conviction can impact somebody’s life in a number of ways. It can impact things as simple as being able to register to vote in general elections or being able to apply for a loan. Felony offenses can also keep people from certain privileges. Gun ownership, for example, is a right that we have constitutionally, with some parameters, but people who are convicted of felonies in the state of Maryland are precluded from owning and possessing certain weapons. Sex offense cases require somebody to participate in a sex offender registry, where they have to register on a regular basis with the state. They have to stay away from particular groups of people, particularly children in many situations, if they are not being supervised.