Charged with a Misdemeanor, Get a Lawyer!

The consequences of even the most minor encounter with the misdemeanor system are serious — they can lead to lost jobs and benefits, including food stamps, housing, or educational support — and yet in many respects, the system has avoided much scrutiny.

This is from a new article on the criminal justice system. I have previously written about the consequences of even misdemeanor convictions: Fines, Court Costs, Other Court Ordered Monies, Loss of Civil Rights, Tainted Record, Employment Loss, Custody Loss, Loss of Driver’s License. You can peruse the over 800 collateral consequences of various convictions here

But there are other, less tangible consequences,

We sometimes say things like, “The criminal system doesn’t just go after criminals, it makes and defines criminals.” Looking carefully at the misdemeanor system shows exactly how it works. Low-level policing concentrated in low-income communities of color will impose criminal marks on people of color, predominately African-American men. Once marked, those individuals have now been flagged by the criminal system in ways that will affect future encounters with the criminal system. So the system, in many ways, is responding to its own conclusions about where to police, who to stop and frisk, who to go after, who to arrest in ways that then determine the criminal system’s own decisions about what is a high-crime neighborhood, what is a high-crime population, who is suspicious, who looks like a criminal.

Misdemeanors have always been the chump change of the American criminal system. We call them “petty.” We call them “minor.” But they are anything but. If arrested, investigated, or charged with a misdemeanor offense, SEEK A LAWYER’S COUNSEL.