Crimes within the US are divided into two types depending on how serious they are. The more serious crimes are called felonies, while those considered to be less serious are known as misdemeanors. Even though misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, they can still be quite a serious charge. There are three specific classes of misdemeanors.
The least serious of these is called a petty misdemeanor. This class of misdemeanor typically only carries with it a simple 6 month or less sentence and a fine of no more than $500. The next type of misdemeanor is an ordinary misdemeanor which carries with it jail sentences of up to a year or longer and fines greater than $500. The most serious class of misdemeanor is the gross misdemeanor. It carries an even longer sentence and potentially greater fine. In some states, gross misdemeanors are closer to felonies than an ordinary misdemeanor. In fact, some define it specifically as “any crime that is not a felony or a misdemeanor.”
In such cases, the legal language here is intended to give a judge leeway when sentencing so that they may, for example, assess a fine that is typical of a misdemeanor while still requiring a jail sentence that would match a felony offense.
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