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Common myths about misdemeanors

Common myths about misdemeanors

One night you go to a bar with a group of friends and get into a brawl with some other patrons. It’s happened to you many times in the past, but this time the police arrive, arrest you, and charge you with a misdemeanor.

Is it really that big a deal? Your friends don’t seem to think so. They advise you to just show up in court, pay the fine you’re likely to receive, and forget about it. Why spend money on a defense attorney for a situation that probably won’t even involve jail time?

While a misdemeanor doesn’t seem like much on the surface, it can affect your life in ways that you never expected. Below is a list of four common myths about misdemeanors, some of which may come as a complete surprise to you.

No one goes to jail for a misdemeanor

While it’s true that a conviction for a misdemeanor is not an automatic ticket to jail in New York, it can still happen, particularly if you already have a criminal record. Conviction for a Class A misdemeanor such as petit larceny or carrying a gun without a permit is punishable by up to a year in jail as well as a fine of up to $1,000.

Background checks overlook misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are not as severe as felonies, but that doesn’t mean that your misdemeanor conviction won’t appear when an employer or licensing authority runs a background check on you. Even if your punishment was a mere fine, that conviction can haunt you for life.

Misdemeanors won’t hurt your career prospects

If you are convicted of even one misdemeanor, then you officially have a criminal record. When you apply for a job, that conviction will show up during a background check and potentially cause you to lose out to another applicant without a criminal history. While some employers may be understanding about a minor offense, many won’t, especially if it is related to drugs, theft,  or sexual misconduct.

Misdemeanors won’t be a barrier to education

Most college and university application forms have a section that asks about your criminal record, if any. Admissions offices may not reject your application because you were caught with graffiti tools or charged with loitering, but misdemeanor crimes like stalking, harassment, and prostitution are universally frowned upon. Even if your application is accepted, if you were convicted of a drug-related misdemeanor, you may not be eligible for assistance in the form of federal grants or loans.

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, then it is strongly recommended that you consult with a New York criminal defense attorney who can assist you in seeking a reduction and even dismissal of the charges. A conviction really can affect the rest of your life, so experienced legal advice and representation is arguably well worth the expense. Julie Rendelman is an experienced New York criminal defense attorney who handles a wide variety of cases. She offers free consultations and can be reached at 212-951-1232. Her firm’s office is conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan. Visit www.RendelmanLaw.com to learn more and to contact Ms. Rendelman.

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