A gross misdemeanor is a crime which is viewed as more serious than a misdemeanor, but not on the level of a felony. Examples of gross misdemeanors vary, depending on regional laws, but can include things like driving under the influence, some types of assault, and petty theft. Some regions also have another classification of crimes, petty misdemeanors, for minor crimes which can result in fines, but not jail time, such as traffic offenses.
The punishment for a gross misdemeanor can vary. Generally people cannot be sentenced to more than a year in jail, and they can be subject to fines in addition to or instead of jail. Community service may also be considered as a punishment option for someone who has committed a gross misdemeanor. Judges generally decide on the sentence with the assistance of sentencing guidelines set out by the legislature to indicate how people should be punished for various crimes.
Unlike a felony, a gross misdemeanor does not create a black mark on someone's record which could become an obstacle to employment and other things. However, the increased severity of the crime does result in stiffer punishments. Furthermore, people who commit gross misdemeanors repeatedly may be subjected to additional punishments. For example, the first driving under the influence offense may be punished with temporary license suspension, fines, and jail time, but a repeat offender could lose her or his driver's license and face additional penalties.
A misdemeanor attorney who specializes in helping people who have been accused of these types of crimes can sometimes be helpful to consult, for someone who is facing trial and punishment for a gross misdemeanor. The attorney may be able to work out a deal such as a lighter sentence with credit for time served. Attorneys can also look for flaws in the case which can be used to get the case thrown out of court, although this is not necessarily guaranteed.
When someone is arrested or stopped for a gross misdemeanor, a summons will usually be included on the paperwork, indicating when the subject should show up at court. For those who spend time in jail, such as drunk drivers taken to jail by the police, the summons will be handed out with the exit paperwork. If someone is not sure about when to show up at court, an officer of the court can be called and asked to check the docket to see when the case is scheduled. Failure to show up at court can result in the issuance of a bench warrant.