5 Common Misdemeanors and How to Avoid Them
Has anyone “never” broken a law? That’s a good question. Some people may have committed misdemeanors without even realizing it. After all, no one’s perfect, and a misdemeanor is the least serious “crime” on the law books. However, they can have quite an impact on your wallet in terms of fines and penalties.
Let’s explore these five common misdemeanors and how you can avoid being charged for them.
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Common Misdemeanors & Practical Tips to Avoid Them
Most state laws consider knowingly entering someone’s land without permission as trespassing. This includes cutting through people’s yards or camping out on private property near the water.
Depending on the situation, you could spend up to about a year in jail and expect to pay stiff fines for trespassing. However, avoiding trespassing misdemeanors is possible if you pay attention to public land boundaries or only camp in designated locations.
Also, watch when you’re traveling a long distance and decide to find a place to park along the road. Using designated rest areas to relieve yourself and take a nap will help you avoid “getting in trouble.”
What’s more, many cities do allow parking on private streets. Still, you should think twice about staying in front of a stranger’s house for too long. If not against parking laws, you could become “wanted” for disturbing someone’s peace or invading someone’s privacy. Someone might think you’re a stalker or a peeping tom when you do this.
Don’t give anyone a reason to suspect you of trespassing. Stay aware and know the rules for hanging out on both public and private properties, including government land and residential roads.
2. Drug Possession
Marijuana is not the only “drug” out there. However, it has become a household news topic, and it’s hard to avoid these days. It’s everywhere.
Most states have relaxed their penalties on marijuana possession, and up to 33 states decriminalized it as of February 2023. This means that you’re allowed less than a certain amount on your person before you have to pay fines or spend time in jail.
Considering both medicinal and recreational marijuana, only 11 states allow recreational use. The amount you can carry on differs in each place you are. Make sure you stay updated on local and statewide laws considering marijuana usage.
Of course, carrying illegal drugs of any kind – whether using someone else’s prescription medication or using any substances you find on the street – will cost you time and money. When it comes to cannabis, however, stay alert about current laws concerning possession.
3. Public Intoxication
Someone can be intoxicated in public, and you might not even know it. The problem arises when you “look” like you’re drunk and begin acting out. That’s when you’re likely to have law enforcement slam you with a public intoxication charge.
Sometimes, public intoxication also leads to more serious charges, such as disorderly conduct or assault and battery. Pay attention to your limits when consuming alcohol at bars, and perhaps seek counseling and treatment if you don’t feel you can control your drinking in public.
Not drinking at all or watching for signs you had too much – such as staggering or being refused another drink at the bar, could prevent a public intoxication misdemeanor. Not drinking or calling for a sober ride could also save you from DUI or OWI charges in your state.
Concerning public intoxication, many people decide to walk home instead of driving from the bar. If you’re caught staggering or showing any signs of being drunk, beware of the possibility of a citation and/or jail time. If you can’t walk a straight line, don’t walk home. Call for a ride or assign a designated driver.
Your state most likely has a certain value of stolen property that’s considered a misdemeanor. It may be $2,000-$2,500 worth of items or more or less. That depends on where the theft occurred.
Usually, shoplifting crimes fall into the misdemeanor category too. However, committing large sting operations where you illegally ship out large quantities of electronics is a felony.
Accidental theft can sometimes occur, such as when you leave a store with something in your hand. It’s usually not a huge deal if you go back and tell them you’re sorry. Most of the time, cashiers realize you almost left by mistake. Don’t take that chance, though.
To avoid theft and misdemeanors, always double-check yourself before you leave a place too. In some cases, you may have to spend time gathering evidence to prove your innocence, however.
If someone plants stolen property on you without you knowing, you can’t help that. However, surrounding yourself with trustworthy people could reduce the risk of wrongful charges. Remember that.
Bonus Tip: How to Avoid Retail Theft
Restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail outlets have rules about what you can take home from the trash. Sometimes, retrieving discarded items is called “retail theft.”
It can seem absurd to throw items in the garbage that other people can still eat or use even if slightly damaged or past an expiration date. These rules, however, stop people from intentionally creating “waste” just to avoid paying for items they want.
Don’t take anything from your workplace to avoid retail theft charges when in doubt. Even if it’s a legitimately discarded item, you don’t want to risk ending up with a theft on your record.
5. Traffic Violations
Traffic violations usually count as an infraction rather than a misdemeanor. You don’t usually spend time in jail for most traffic violations, although you could work in some jurisdictions.
For instance, some states may throw you behind bars if you drive with a suspended license. It may not even matter that it was only suspended because of unpaid parking tickets. However, you will, more often than not, pay fines for traffic violations.
Keep in mind also that certain locations crack down on minor speeding infractions more so than other places. For example, you could technically end up paying a fine for going one mile over the speed limit.
When it comes to any traffic violation, whether going five miles over the speed limit, running a red light even if no cars are passing by, or not wholly stopping before making a right turn, you’re giving law officers a reason to give you a citation. Be careful about breaking any driving laws; you won’t have to worry about any misdemeanor charges.
Misdemeanors occur at the municipal, local, state, and national levels. Prepare for all possibilities and keep yourself free from unexpected penalties.