A Quick Primer on Misdemeanors in New York State
A misdemeanor in New York State is defined as a crime punishable by less than one year in prison. There are three categories of misdemeanors in New York:
(1) Class A misdemeanors, such as Petit Larceny and Assault in the 3rd Degree, which are punishable by: --Up to one year in prison --Three years probation, or --A combination of prison (up to 60 days) and three years probation;
(2) Class B misdemeanors, such as Criminal Possession of Marijuana in 5th Degree and Criminal Trespass in the 3rd Degree, which are punishable by: --Up to 90 days jail or --One year probation
(3) Unclassified Misdemeanors, which often fall under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, such as Driving While Intoxicated and Driving with a Suspended License. These offenses can be punishable by up to one year in prison.
New York also has numerous violation-level offenses, such as Disorderly Conduct and Harassment in the Second Degree, which are not considered "crimes" per se but can be punishable by up to 15 days in prison.
A misdemeanor conviction becomes part of a person's permanent criminal record, which can be accessed by law enforcement, government agencies and civilian employers. If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you have been convicted of a crime.
Often those charged with a misdemeanor offense are arrested and brought to a police station where they are "processed." A person must be fingerprinted for all felony and most misdemeanor cases and this is typically done as part of the arrest processing. In addition, pedigree information will be taken by the police officer processing the arrest, and the defendant may be questioned about the incident unless the defendant has invoked his right to counsel or an attorney has appeared on his behalf.
The arrest process itself can take several hours. Depending on the time of arrest a defendant may have to spend a night in police custody before he appears in court to be arraigned.
The arraignment is the initial step in the prosecution of a misdemeanor case. At the arraignment the defendant is brought before a judge where he is advised of the charges he is facing and asked to enter a plea, which should almost always be "not guilty". The prosecutor may also ask the court to require the defendant to post bail to ensure his return to court. Additionally, in certain cases, such as driving while intoxicated, the court may suspend a defendant's driving privileges at the arraignment. Having a criminal defense attorney present at the arraignment to deal with issues such as the sufficiency of the charges, entry of plea, and bail applications is always advisable.