Federal Misdemeanor (not a misnomer)

Many people are surprised to learn that there are misdemeanors under our nation’s federal criminal laws. That’s certainly understandable. After all, the most commonly prosecuted (and sensationalized) crimes in federal court seem to involve a wide array of felonies. Bank, Wire, and Credit Card Fraud; Drug Trafficking; Weapon Offenses; the list goes on and on. But it’s worth point out that federal misdemeanors do exist. Now, whether they actually get prosecuted is a whole other story.

If a criminal offense is not specifically classified as a “misdemeanor” in the text of the statute defining it, you might be left with the false impression that “gee, this must be a felony.” But, by law, if the maximum term of imprisonment authorized is 6 months – 1 year, it is a “Class A misdemeanor.” 18 U.S.C. § 3559. 30 days – 6 months is a “Class B misdemeanor,” and 5-30 days is a “Class C misdemeanor.”

Here are a few common and uncommon (non-exhaustive) examples:

  • Uncommon
    • 18 U.S.C. § 333 – Mutilating, cutting, defacing, disfiguring, or cementing together (yes, it says that), of any bank bill, draft, or note issued by any national banking association or the Federal Reserve commits a Class B misdemeanor.
    • 18 U.S.C. § 594 – Intimidating, threatening, coercing, or attempting to do any of those things, for the purpose of interfering with the right to vote is merely a Class A misdemeanor.
    • 18 U.S.C. § 700 – Desecration (mutilation, defacing, burning, putting on the floor or ground, or trampling on) of the flag of the United States, is a mere Class A misdemeanor.
  • Common
    • 18 U.S.C. § 111 – Assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers is, where the acts constitute only simple assault, a Class A misdemeanor (just as it is under Florida state law)
    • 18 U.S.C. § 211c – Whoever solicits or receives anything of value in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining appointed office commits only a mere Class A misdemeanor. (Crazy, right?)
    • 18 U.S.C. § 656 – Theft or embezzlement by a bank officer, if less than $1,000, is only a Class A misdemeanor.
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