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Know what can happen when you are charged with a misdemeanor

Facing any criminal charge, even a misdemeanor, can be stressful. Even though a misdemeanor is a less serious charge than a felony, it can still cause problems for you. Knowing how a misdemeanor is handled can help you if you find yourself charged with one.

Being charged with a misdemeanor might not mean you are taken to jail. Instead, the officer may issue you a citation. You must go to court on the date listed on the citation. At that court date, you will have your arraignment, which is when you will enter a plea for the charge against you.

There are three options for your plea: no contest, guilty, or not guilty. Making sure that you understand what each means in relation to your case is vital. A plea of no contest or guilty means that you will be sentenced. In most cases, that means you will be issued a fine.

If your plea is not guilty, you will have a trial date or a pre-trial conference date set. One important thing to note is that if you are facing jail time, you won't be able to enter a guilty plea. Instead, the judge will enter a not guilty plea on your behalf. Then your case moves forward like any other case with a not guilty plea. A not guilty plea might also mean that you can work toward a plea deal.

In some cases, you might not be offered a chance to plea right away. The judge might offer you a diversion program. If you opt to enter the diversion program and complete it successfully, you won't have a criminal conviction on your record.

As you move through the process of dealing with a misdemeanor, you should make sure you understand how your decisions might affect your case. Make sure that you get legal guidance before making decisions about how to proceed.

Source: The University of Arizona, "Surviving a misdemeanor charge," accessed May. 15, 2015

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