What Are Misdemeanors? - Definition, Classes, Types & Examples

Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn what constitutes a misdemeanor crime. Review the definition and classes of misdemeanors. Analyze the different types of misdemeanor crimes, and examine some examples to gain a thorough understanding of this type of crime.


Did you ever have a friend who did something stupid while intoxicated? Maybe they vandalized a street sign or got into a fistfight? If they were caught by the police, they may have even been arrested for their actions. In these instances, your friend would have committed a misdemeanor while intoxicated.

A misdemeanor is a lower-level crime that has a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine. In some states, the fine can go up to $5,000, but it is frequently in a lower range of up to $2,000 in the majority of states. Furthermore, one might receive probation as a penalty. Probation is when an individual receives mandated supervision by the court for a certain period of time instead of serving time in prison.


Misdemeanor crimes are classified by certain levels in most states. The classification is typically based upon how serious the crime is. For instance, a level A or level 1 misdemeanor will incur the maximum prison sentence and fine. However, a lower level, such as a level D or level 4 misdemeanor crime, will carry a lower prison sentence and fine.


There are various types of misdemeanor crimes. Moreover, every state is different, so it's important to check the particular state where you live to see what constitutes a misdemeanor crime. However, generally the following are treated as misdemeanor crimes:

• petty theft

• trespass

• public intoxication

• indecent exposure

• shoplifting

• vandalism

• disorderly conduct

• assault

• driving without a license


Let's look at some examples to gain a better sense of what constitutes a misdemeanor crime.

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