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Offenses lower than felonies and generally those punishable by fine, penalty, Forfeiture, or imprisonment other than in a penitentiary. Under federal law, and most state laws, any offense other than a felony is classified as a misdemeanor. Certain states also have various classes of misdemeanors (e.g., Class A, B, etc.).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. a lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. Misdemeanors are distinguished from felonies which can be punished by a state prison term. They are tried in the lowest local court such as municipal, police or justice courts. Typical misdemeanors include: petty theft, disturbing the peace, simple assault and battery, drunk driving without injury to others, drunkenness in public, various traffic violations, public nuisances, and some crimes which can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances and the discretion of the District Attorney. "High crimes and misdemeanors" referred to in the U. S. Constitution are felonies. (See: felony)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

MISDEMEANOR, crim. law. This term is used to express every offence inferior to felony, punishable by indictment, or by particular prescribed proceedings; in its usual acceptation, it is applied to all those crimes and offences for which the law has not provided a particular name; this word is generally used in contradistinction to felony; misdemeanors comprehending all indictable offences, which do not amount to felony, as perjury, battery, libels, conspiracies and public nuisances.
     2. Misdemeanors have sometimes been called misprisions. (q.v.) Burn's Just. tit. Misdemeanor; 4 Bl. Com. 5, n. 2; 2 Bar. & Adolph. 75: 1 Russell, 43; 1 Chitty, Pr. 14; 3 Vern. 347; 2 Hill, S. C. 674; Addis. 21; 3 Pick. 26; 1 Greenl. 226; 2 P. A. Browne, 249; 9 Pick. 1; 1 S. & R. 342; 6 Call. 245; 4 Wend. 229; 2 Stew. & Port. 379. And see 4 Wend. 229, 265; 12 Pick. 496; 3 Mass. 254; 5 Mass. 106. See Offence.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Queen Elizabeth High School in Atherstone has teamed up with police to stamp out truancy that can lead to petty crime and more serious offences.
There is no such thing as petty crime as far as small businesses are concerned.
Sean's attraction to the Mormon religion, and the precariousness of life in the city as evidenced by revenge, fire, petty crime and civic corruption.
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Washington Neighbourhood Inspector Paul Stewart said: "People might think shoplifting is a petty crime but it can have a major effect on someone's livelihood, particularly smaller retailers.
West Midlands Police is working in partnership with the Canal and River Trust on a new scheme which focuses on tackling petty crime.
He has called for the introduction of Problem Solving Courts, like those set up in the US, to stamp out petty crime.
They were from the Somali community and known to be involved in petty crime. Police said the deaths were not gang-related.
Guitarist Chae Houston said last night: "I can think of so many people who I grew up with who fell into drugs and petty crime but we believe all people deserve a second chance.
The frozen food chief executive called for the law to recognise the impact of theft and said shopkeepers were frustrated by the limited powers available to deal with a "tidal wave" of petty crime.