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Misdemeanors

A misdemeanor, a criminal offense that is less serious than a felony and more serious than an infraction, is generally punishable by a fine or incarceration in a local jail, or both. Many jurisdictions separate misdemeanors into three classes: high or gross misdemeanors, ordinary misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors. Petty misdemeanors usually contemplate a jail sentence of less than six months and a fine of $500 or less. The punishment prescribed for gross misdemeanors is greater than that prescribed for ordinary misdemeanors and less than that prescribed for felonies. Some states even define a gross misdemeanor as "any crime that is not a felony or a misdemeanor" (see MN ST § 609.02). Legislatures sometimes use such broad definitions to provide prosecutors and judges with flexibility in charging and sentencing for criminal conduct that calls for a punishment combining a fine normally assessed for a misdemeanor and an incarceration period normally given for a felony.

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