No one wants to break the law, however, people often put themselves, and others at risk by committing seemingly innocent acts which, unbeknownst to them, are actually already misdemeanors. The legal definition of misdemeanor (also misdemeanour) is: a lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. Misdemeanors are distinguished from felonies which can be punished by a state prison term.
Oftentimes, when caught doing a misdemeanor, many would say that they didn’t know that what they’re doing was illegal. That may be true, but, ignorance of the law excuses no one. It’s best to know what these misdemeanors are and avoid committing them.
Listed below are five activities which are actually punishable by law.
Speeding first became an offense in 1832, through the United Kingdom’s Stage Carriage Act. The offense was for endangering the safety of a passenger or person by ‘furious driving’. The first UK speed limit imposed was 10 mph (16 km/h) on open roads in town. In 1865, the speed limit was reduced to 2 mph (3 km/h) in towns and 4 mph (6 km/h) in rural areas, but in 1896, the speed limit was raised to 14 mph. The first person believed to have been convicted of speeding was Walter Arnold. On January 28, 1896, he was fined 1 shilling plus costs for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h). This was obviously before the speed limit was raised to 14 mph.
In the United States, committing a speeding violation may lead to different consequences depending on which part of the country the violation occurred. In most states, speeding is only considered as a civil infraction, but some states, depending on the speed recorded when the driver was charged, speeding may be classified as a misdemeanor.
The word vandalism comes from the word Vandals, the name of an East Germanic Tribe who, in the year 455, sacked the city of Rome and willfully and maliciously destroyed anything beautiful or venerable. Today, the term is used to describe the behavior of committing criminal damage towards any property without the permission of the owner.
Vandalism is a common of misdemeanors, and may be the least serious of common crimes. Vandalism often comes in the form of unauthorized graffiti, even if these are artistic or tastefully done, on public property.
Many think that vandalism only relates to spray painting on walls. Vandalism includes (and is not limited to) what may be considered as “harmless pranks” such as cutting trees without permission, throwing eggs at cars, people or structures, breaking windows, placing glue into locks, slashing tires, scratching paint on cars or other painted surfaces, and even flooding a house by clogging a sink or by leaving the water running. Though the perpetrators may consider their act of vandalism as a joke, the emotional impact on the person whose property has been destroyed can be great especially if the damage is extensive, or reflects a message of hatred and intimidation.
Trespassing is about physically being in another person’s property without invitation. However, there are three ways a person may commit a trespassing misdemeanor:
- trespass to a person by way of threats, assault, battery, wounding, mayhem, and maiming;
- trespass to chattel (goods or personal property), when there is an intentional interference with the possession of personal property; and
- trespass to land, which involves unauthorized entry upon the land, or property of another.
The simplest example of trespassing is taking a shortcut across a field that is owned by someone. Other seemingly harmless activities that are actually trespassing include: showing up to a party uninvited; hanging out in the parking lot of a club or bar (even if you have no intention of committing crime) after you’ve been asked to leave; loitering in an abandoned building; and violation of restraining orders. The latter, however, can be elevated to a formal criminal complaint.
Driving Without a Valid License
A drivers license or driving license is a legal and official document that shows that a person is able to operate a motorized vehicle such as a motorcycle, car, truck or bus, on public roads. The first license was issued in 1888 to Karl Benz, inventor of the modern automobile. The license, giving Karl Benz permission to operate his car on public roads, was issued on his own request because the citizens of Mannheim complained about the noise and smell of his vehicle.
Driving without a valid license, even if it is just to go down the road to buy ice cream, is a serious offense and other extenuating factors may aggravate this misdemeanor to more serious charges. Just like speeding, the penalties imposed on those found to be driving without a valid license varies from State to State.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious misdemeanor. This involves operating a motor vehicle with blood levels of alcohol in excess of a specified legal limit. Even though it is already widely known that driving under the influence, whether by alcohol, or drugs, greatly impair a person’s driving skills, people still knowingly get behind the wheel to drive. In 1996, local law enforcement agencies in the United States made 1,467,300 arrests nationwide for driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2010, over 1.41 million drivers were arrested for DUI.
What If You’ve Been Charged?
Individuals charged with any of these misdemeanors have the right to defend themselves in the court of law. Those who need help can approach any law firm in the state where they have been charged and ask for legal advice. Some law firms even specialize in specific misdemeanors. For DUI charges in Florida, for example, Florida DUI Attorneys are able to represent those that need assistance. In case the misdemeanor charge is elevated to a more serious criminal offense, Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers can be approached to help defend these charges.
Evelyn Franklin is a professional blogger that provides news and information on finding a Florida DUI defense attorney. She writes for Musca Law, the best Florida DUI defense law firm.