Converting Misdemeanors to Civil Infractions
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.