What is “Offense Level” in a criminal matter and what are the maximum penalties? (Madeline Porter)
This is one of the first questions I’m usually asked by new clients, and that’s because there’s a lot of conflicting and confusing information online. Some things are really simple to do a quick google search. This is one of the times when googling the answer is not going to be very helpful. That’s because a lot of offenses that have the same name or same title can be punished at different levels. That’s why it’s important to speak to an attorney to fully understand the offense level of your particular charge and what that entails. One way to describe an offense level is to say that it basically has to do with the severity of the offense and, consequently, the severity of the punishment. Some offenses, like I just said, can be punished at different levels. For example, theft. A theft case can be anything from the lowest level which is a class C misdemeanor like a traffic ticket all the way up to a first-degree felony, carrying up to a lifetime term of imprisonment. So, another example is a DWI. A DWI can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense depending on the factors of that case. So, to break down the different offense levels, the main break is going to come between misdemeanor cases and felony cases. And the main difference is that misdemeanor cases are less severe than felony cases. Misdemeanor cases are typically going to be looking at a potential confinement in the county jail, whereas felony cases are looking at potential longer terms of confinement in prison or state jail. So, a class C misdemeanor that going to be like your traffic ticket. Class B misdemeanor that’s going to be things like low amounts of theft or possession of marijuana, some DWI cases, and the punishment range associated there is going to be up to one hundred and eighty days in jail and a two thousand dollar fine. A class A misdemeanor common examples are going to be like a second DWI case or an assault case and the maximum punishment range there is up to a year in jail at the county jail and up to a four thousand dollar fine. For state jail felony offenses, that carries a maximum sentence of twenty-four months in state jail and up to a ten thousand dollar fine. A third-degree felony is going to carry a maximum penalty of two to ten years in prison as well as a ten thousand dollar fine. A second-degree felony has a punishment range typically of two to twenty years in prison as well as up to a ten thousand dollar fine. And a first-degree felony is going to carry the maximum sentence of five to ninety-nine years or life in prison and up to a ten thousand dollar fine. The main difference in these offense levels is going to be misdemeanor cases versus felony cases, and if you have any questions, give us a call and we’d be happy to help.

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