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Though less serious than a felony, a misdemeanor conviction in California can still result in a jail sentence of up to one year. Unlike many states, punishment for a misdemeanor conviction in California is determined on a crime-by-crime basis. Decisions regarding the statute of limitations are also made on a crime-by-crime basis. Where no specific sentencing statute exists, punishment can be up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

Examples of misdemeanor crimes include:

  • Disturbing the peace
  • Driving with a suspended driver’s license
  • Petty theft
  • Prostitution
  • Public drunkenness
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism

Some crimes can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Referred to as “wobblers,” the criminal classification of these offenses depends on the circumstances concerning the crime and the existence of any prior criminal history.


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