When people hear that someone has been charged with a misdemeanor, they may wonder what exactly this term means and how it is different from other offenses. If people want to have a good understanding of Pennsylvania law, it is important to understand how crimes are classified.

FindLaw says that people charged with a misdemeanor commit a crime more severe than a civil offense but not as consequential as a felony. People may often serve jail time but sometimes they may also need to pay a fine. A person’s criminal history and the kind of offense generally determine whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor.

There are also several classifications of misdemeanors. Someone who commits a less serious offense might be charged with a petty misdemeanor, while a more severe crime might be a gross misdemeanor. Within this classification, people might be charged with a misdemeanor of the first, second or third degree.

The penalty for a crime is one of the factors that determine whether an offense is a misdemeanor or a felony. According to The Pennsylvania Code, the length of time a person is imprisoned depends on the crime’s classification. Someone charged with a third-degree misdemeanor may spend up to one year in jail, while a second-degree misdemeanor typically carries a prison sentence of two years at the most. People charged with a first-degree misdemeanor may receive a prison sentence of up to five years. If a person is sentenced to spend more than five years in prison, then a crime is typically classified as a felony. Additionally, people charged with a misdemeanor usually pay a lower fine. This fine generally does not exceed $10,000.