Misdemeanor fines are monetary penalties assessed by a criminal court for individuals accused of misdemeanor offenses. The fines may range from a small fine to a fine of several thousand dollars, depending on the nature of the offense. The rules differ from location to location and among various jurisdictions, but generally misdemeanor fines can range up to $5,000 US Dollars (USD) for a given offense.
In the United States criminal justice system, there are various levels of criminal offenses: misdemeanors, felonies and capitol offenses are generally the terms used to describe these levels of crime. Misdemeanors are considered to be the least serious of criminal acts and activities. Felonies are generally more serious, and often carry penalties of over a year in jail and fines of more than $5,000 USD, depending on the crime. Capitol crimes refer to serious crimes such as murder and are crimes for which the death penalty may be issued in death penalty states.
When a misdemeanor is alleged, the individual is charged with the crime and brought before a criminal court. He may have an attorney or be assigned a public defender. He is permitted all of the rights that any accused person has, including the right to a fair trial. There must be sufficient evidence to prove he committed the misdemeanor for a fine or other penalty to be assessed, and the prosecutor must prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
When the guilt of an individual is proven in a misdemeanor case, penalties are assessed by the judge who does the sentencing. Those penalties may include jail time and/or misdemeanor fines. On certain occasions, such as for driving under the influence of alcohol, which may be classified as a misdemeanor depending on the person's blood alcohol content (BAC), both a fine and jail time may be appropriate. In other situations, if the crime was very minor, such as public intoxication, a misdemeanor fine may be considered a sufficient penalty and no jail time will be issued.
The purpose of a misdemeanor fine is to deter criminal behavior and punish the offender. There are numerous situations in which misdemeanor fines may be the appropriate penalty. Misdemeanor fines may be assessed for petty theft, disturbing the peace, minor drug offenses such as possession of a small amount of marijuana, or other such crimes in which no one was harmed and no serious risk of injury existed. The penal code of the given state as well as precedent and the opinion of the judge determine when a fine is appropriate and in what amount.