Crimes in the United States are usually categorized as either felonies or misdemeanors. State laws further divide misdemeanors, the less serious offenses, into several classes. The federal government and many states, including Illinois, use a letter classification system, although some states use numbers and degrees instead.
Class B misdemeanors are relatively serious offenses, but not as serious as class A misdemeanors. Every state and the federal government decides for itself which crimes to classify as a class B misdemeanor. In Illinois, some class B misdemeanors are:
- Criminal trespass on property
- Possession of marijuana between 2.5-10 grams
- Harassment by telephone
To show some contrast, Texas classifies the first offense for driving while intoxicated as a class B misdemeanor, while Illinois classifies the same offense as a class A misdemeanor, which is more serious. Other types of crimes that states may classify as a class B misdemeanor include:
- Indecent exposure
- Petty theft
- Simple Assault
Sentencing Options for Class B Misdemeanors
When classifying a crime, the state legislature specifically chooses the class because of the punishments available for that class. Indeed, the range of potential punishments is the defining characteristic that distinguishes one class of crimes from another.
In Illinois, the state can punish a class B misdemeanor with jail time for a sentence of less than six months and/or a fine of up to $1,500. In comparison, Wisconsin sets the potential penalty for a class B misdemeanor at potential imprisonment for no more than 90 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Anyone convicted of a class B misdemeanor under federal law can receive a minimum prison sentence of 30 days, but that sentence generally cannot last longer than six months. The maximum fine for a federal class B misdemeanor is $5,000.
In addition to establishing terms of imprisonment and setting fines, most jurisdictions may impose sentences requiring community service, probation, substance abuse treatment, or supervised release after imprisonment. A judge may decide on a sentence that combines many of these elements. Unsurprisingly, repeat offenders often get tougher sentences within the guidelines than first-time offenders.
Defending Against a Class B Misdemeanor Charge
As a criminal charge, a class B misdemeanor includes the right to an attorney in the event of an arrest. An arrested person also has all of the legal protections for criminal defendant. These protections include the right to not speak with the police and the right to not testify against oneself.
A criminal defense attorney may help to protect a defendant’s rights. In addition, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecuting attorney. The prosecutor may prefer to negotiate a lesser sentence after assessing the strength of the evidence, as a way to avoid the unpredictability of a trial.