We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Petty Misdemeanor?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Misdemeanors are a class of law violations that are often thought to be much less severe in scope than crimes called felonies. These violations may be further separated into what are called gross and petty misdemeanors. Gross misdemeanors usually are more serious infractions that might result in a person serving some time in jail. In contrast, a petty misdemeanor is typically an extremely small infraction that is punishable by fines only; in fact, some people call these non-criminal offenses. They may or may not create a criminal record.

Exactly what constitutes this type of misdemeanor is variable by region. Some potential infractions could include traffic tickets that do not involve driving under the influence of substances. Citations for behavior that a city or other region disallows like smoking in a designated non-smoking area or violating a city noise ordinance could fall under this category too.

One thing that may distinguish the petty misdemeanor from other forms of crimes is that these infractions usually have relatively low fines attached to them. Fines paid could be anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. In places like the US, the top fine for this type of misdemeanor is typically about $300 US Dollars (USD).

Another differentiation between the gross and petty misdemeanors is that many petty infractions don’t require attendance in court. Unless a person wants to challenge the citation, they ordinarily simply pay the fine and walk away from the problem. Most people find this more convenient than fighting a charge because these charges are unlikely to go on a criminal record, though traffic violations might be maintained for a short time on motor vehicle and driving records.

There can be one instance where a petty misdemeanor can create huge issues and that is if people cannot pay the fine. When this is due to financial hardship, it could be possible to negotiate directly with the court and create a payment plan. This may require a court appearance, or it might be something negotiable over the phone with the specific court involved. Ignoring the fine is never a good option and could ultimately upgrade the misdemeanor charge to something else.

This classification of non-criminal offense is designed to encourage good behavior on a number of levels. Many people see a petty misdemeanor charge as a slap on the hand, reminding folks to obey even the minor laws of a region. Though these are less serious infractions, they do deserve serious attention. Frequent small misdemeanor charges suggest a person is out of step with regional attitudes about safe or legal behavior, and accumulation of these charges may additionally become expensive.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a MyLawQuestions contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By David09 — On May 11, 2011

Just because a petty misdemeanor does not show up in a criminal record does not mean it may not haunt you if you switch jobs. The reason is that employers conduct background checks, and my understanding is that they can go really deep into a background check.

Thus, a background check could reveal your misdemeanor if the employer wanted to be really thorough. A superficial background check will not show it however. All misdemeanors are not the same in an employer's eyes too. He will view a petty theft with far more seriousness than a traffic ticket.

By truman12 — On May 08, 2011

Its interesting to think about how the law makes distinctions between serious crimes and less serious crimes and how these can vary across regions. You might do something wrong in one state and get charged with a petty misdemeanor and then do the same thing in a different state and get a much harsher penalty. The law is subjective and this becomes really clear when you look about how certain areas react to certain kinds of misbehavior. You might get a $20 fine or a month in a jail cell.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a MyLawQuestions contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.