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Converting Misdemeanors to Civil Infractions

Criminal Defense Lawyer Helping Residents of Boston and Surrounding Cities

Massachusetts, like many other states, has crimes that are misdemeanors and others that are more serious, which are known as felonies. Felonies are typically punished by incarceration. Misdemeanors may involve incarceration, but generally the length of the sentence is much shorter than it would be in a felony case. In many cases, converting a misdemeanor to a civil infraction is also possible. Boston criminal defense lawyer Patrick Murphy may be able to help you with this process so that the consequences of a conviction or a guilty plea are minimized.

Converting Misdemeanors to Civil Infractions

Some of the crimes that may be charged as misdemeanors in Massachusetts include assault, assault and battery, minor shoplifting, minor food stamp trafficking, OUI (DUI) and certain other motor vehicle offenses, minor drug crimes, and criminal harassment. Shoplifting and food stamp trafficking must involve less than $250 to be treated as misdemeanors.

Sometimes a prosecutor might agree to convert a misdemeanor charge to a civil infraction. Under Section 70C, your attorney or the Commonwealth can make a motion to treat a violation of a municipal ordinance or bylaw or a misdemeanor as a civil infraction. However, there are some cases in which conversion is not possible, such as a hit and run, OUI with serious injuries, OUI involving a boat, juvenile delinquency offenses, violations of restraining orders, crimes against a person, and perjury, among many other crimes.

There are significant benefits to converting a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. A misdemeanor is a crime — being convicted of it can affect your ability to get a job, housing, or a particular professional license. Often, people assume that a misdemeanor is not a big deal, but in fact when you apply for some jobs, it can be problematic to have any sort of criminal record. In addition, having a criminal record, even if there are just a few misdemeanors, can mean that a prosecutor may be less willing to negotiate a fair plea deal if you are later charged with a more serious crime. For many people, even a shorter term of jail or imprisonment in a house of corrections and fines can be disruptive and upsetting. When there is an adjudication of responsibility after the case has been converted, the adjudication of responsibility cannot be used to calculate second or subsequent offenses. It also cannot be the basis for revoking parole or a probation surrender.

It is important to be aware that if there is a conversion to a civil infraction case, but you are found responsible, there may still be meaningful penalties. Even if the misdemeanor at issue does not set forth a civil fine as a possible penalty, the court can impose a fine of up to $5,000. An adjudication of responsibility can include an order of restitution. With motor vehicle offenses, you may still have your license suspended even if the misdemeanor was converted to a civil infraction. From a broader perspective, however, these penalties likely will have a much less significant impact on your life, your family, and your long-term future than if you are convicted of a misdemeanor.

Retain an Experienced Misdemeanor Attorney in the Boston Area

If you are charged with certain types of crimes in Massachusetts, it may be possible to convert a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. At the Law Office of Patrick Murphy, we can advise you on whether this is possible in your case and on the specific strategy that might be appropriate to pursue in your circumstances. We can help you weigh the pros and cons and make a decision about how to proceed that is right for you. Call the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy at (617) 367-0450 or contact us via our online form to set up a free appointment. Patrick Murphy can assist people who need an OUI attorney or assistance with many other types of misdemeanor charges in Cambridge, Framingham, Lynn, Martha's Vineyard, Medford, Newton, Somerville, Taunton, and other communities in Middlesex, Suffolk, Essex, Barnstable, Hampden, Hampshire, Bristol, and Dukes Counties.

Client Reviews
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"Highly Recommended. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy absolutely helped me out in my time of need. When I met him in his Boston office he put me right at ease and explained the criminal process to me in a way I could easily understand and in a manner that gave me complete confidence. I was facing a criminal wanton destruction of property charge in Barnstable District Court. On the day of the case, he was at the courthouse waiting for me and my wife. Mr. Murphy handled the hearing in a very thorough and professional manner putting us through our testimony and making a powerful argument to the decision maker. My case was thrown out and I could not be happier with the service from Attorney Murphy. I highly recommend him to you as a skilled legal advocate!" Rob, Avvo User
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"Excellent Criminal Defense Lawyer. From the first consultation I knew Patrick Murphy was the right choice for my criminal defense. He was knowledgeable of the laws and knew how to build up a strong defense for my case. Every phone call and email I made was promptly answered. When it came time for my hearing, Patrick was prepared and able to get the criminal complaint against me dropped without ever becoming charge! Would highly recommend this attorney to anyone seeking a top quality defense attorney to handle their case!" John, Avvo User
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"OUI Not Guilty Verdict. Patrick Murphy provided excellent service as council on my case. He worked diligently over a long legal process that spanned over 3 years. He was able to take my case to a Jury Trial and get me a Not Guilty verdict through he expert knowledge of the law and expertise in cross examination of the prosecutions witnesses. He was very professional and available at anytime night or day to answer questions." Chris, Avvo User
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"Highly Skilled and Professional Lawyer. Attorney Pat Murphy did a great job guiding me through an A&B charge, and most importantly getting the case dismissed in a very timely manner. He is very professional, returns call promptly, and did a great explaining his strategy and the legal process to me. I was confident throughout the whole process that I was in good hands and would receive the best possible outcome in my case. Would highly recommended Attorney Murphy." Avvo User
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"I Felt That I was in Good Hands... and I Was! Mr. Patrick J. Murphy was very quick to respond to my needs. He was always there to answer any questions I had in a timely fashion, and he made me feel very comfortable in an extremely uncomfortable situation. Having Mr. Murphy by my side in the courtroom felt like I was at an advantage. He speaks with confidence. He doesn't stutter or pause while put on the spot. He treated me with respect. He listens. He always greeted me with a warm welcome and never wasted any time." Avvo User