What Happens at a Misdemeanor Initial Hearing?

June 8th, 2019 by McNeely | Stephenson

If you’ve been charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, or a DUI without bodily harm, you are likely facing a type of charge called a misdemeanor. This category of crime is considered more serious than an infraction, but not as grave as a felony.

Especially if this is your first run-in with the criminal legal system, you are likely scared, embarrassed, and uncertain as to what to expect — when you head to court and beyond.

What happens at a misdemeanor initial hearing? What sort of punishment will I receive? How do I ensure the best possible outcome of my case?

Your first priority should be to secure legal representation. The New Albany misdemeanor lawyers at McNeely Stephenson will make sure you know your rights and advise you on the best way to move forward so you can get on with your life.

Types of Misdemeanors

In Indiana, misdemeanor crimes are categorized into three classes, based on severity.

  • Class A misdemeanors are the most serious. If convicted, you can receive up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.
  • Class B misdemeanors carry a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Class C misdemeanors can land you in jail for up to 60 days with a fine not exceeding $500.

The prospect of any jail time is scary, we know. But keep in mind that these are the maximum allowed penalties. Most misdemeanors result in very little or no jail time, especially for first-time offenders.

What Happens at a Misdemeanor Initial Hearing?

An arraignment is a type of court proceeding at which someone charged with a crime (the defendant) is formally notified of the charges. As the defendant, you should be advised of certain rights, including the right to trial, the right to counsel, and the right against self-incrimination. You will then be asked to enter a plea. It’s essential to not go into an initial hearing unprepared. Be sure to retain a lawyer beforehand. They will discuss with you what to expect, and you can make an informed decision together about how to plead.

In Indiana, some people charged with misdemeanors qualify for something called a pre-trial diversion. This enables defendants to have their charges dismissed if they complete certain actions, such as payment of fees (though inability to pay shouldn’t disqualify you), completion of community service, and/or completion of a program related to your crime (such as rehab or parenting classes). You may also be required to stay away from drugs and alcohol and maintain a clean arrest record going forward.

Drunk driving charges, as well as cases involving drivers with commercial driver’s licenses, are not eligible for pre-trial diversion. Other factors prosecutors may consider are:

  • Defendant’s criminal history
  • Is there a victim, and how much is owed to him or her?
  • Does the prosecutor have a strong case?

Every situation is different. The prosecutor will consider the particular circumstances of yours when deciding whether to offer a pre-trial diversion.

If You’ve Been Charged with a Misdemeanor, Call McNeely Stephenson

A misdemeanor crime may not be as serious as a felony, but it’s not something you want to take lightly. Call the criminal defense team at McNeely Stephenson to schedule a consultation right away. We will give you the smart and aggressive representation you need.