List of Misdemeanors in California: A Helpful Guide



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What Is a Misdemeanor in California?


California law defines misdemeanors as crimes that are punishable by imprisonment in county jail, payment of fines, or imprisonment in a state prison subject to a judge’s discretion.

Misdemeanor crimes lie somewhere between infractions and felony crimes in their severity level, with infractions being the least severe. However, sometimes, a misdemeanor offense may transform into a felony charge. This transformation depends on the defendant’s criminal history and whether or not they are repeat offenders.

A misdemeanor conviction is serious and could have long-term consequences, including appearing in your criminal record and depriving you of beneficial opportunities in the future.

So, if you or your loved one has been charged with a misdemeanor, it is essential to understand what a misdemeanor charge entails and the possible penalties upon a conviction. This knowledge could help you determine how to respond to such charges and help you as you consider hiring a criminal lawyer in Oakland to represent you.

Even in the absence of an impending criminal trial, being aware of the existing misdemeanor crimes under the law can help you avoid any conduct that could qualify as a crime in California. Ignorance of the law is usually not a valid legal defense, so being aware of the law on misdemeanors can help you avoid committing a crime inadvertently. Continue reading to learn more about common California misdemeanor crimes and other related issues.

List of Misdemeanor Crimes Under the California Penal Code


Some of the common offenses classified as misdemeanors under California criminal law include the following:



The offense of shoplifting is defined as entering a business or commercial establishment with the intent to steal during regular opening hours. It doesn’t matter whether or not the perpetrator succeeds in the act. A mere intention to shoplift is enough to attract a criminal charge. However, the value of the stolen property or property intended to be stolen should be, at most, $950.

Shoplifting is punishable as a misdemeanor crime. However, the penalties could be more severe if the perpetrator is a repeat offender.

Petty Theft

Petty theft involves taking property or money that belongs to another. The property’s value or amount of money taken under this offense is not more than $50.

Petty theft may be charged as a misdemeanor offense or infraction, subject to the discretion of the prosecuting attorney/officer. However, the charge could become more severe if the accused person has prior theft or theft-related convictions.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Under the California Penal Code, it is a criminal offense for the following categories of persons to drive a vehicle:

  • An individual who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage
  • A person whose blood alcohol level is at 0.08 percent or more
  • Any person driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.04 percent
  • Any individual under the influence of any drug, unless the person is a participant in an approved narcotic treatment program
  • Any individual who is under the influence of a drug and alcoholic beverage at the same time.

If you’re guilty of any of the above conduct, you could be arrested and charged with a DUI offense. In that case, you may need a San Francisco drug crime lawyer to represent you.

The penalty for the first violation of California DUI laws is imprisonment for at least 96 hours and at most six months or the payment of a fine of not less than $390 or more than $1,000. In such cases, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may suspend the guilty party’s license. The court may also require that the offender complete an approved driving under the influence program.

Repeat DUI offenders, however, may receive stricter penalties. The offense may be considered a felony if the offense or conviction occurs up to three times within ten years.


Assault and Battery

The offense of assault involves the unlawful attempt to violently injure another person. The assailant must have the immediate capacity to carry out the threatening action, although they don’t need to succeed.

The penalty for assault is the payment of a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment in the county jail for less than six months, or a combination of both.

In contrast, the offense of battery is the intentional and unlawful infliction of force or violence on another, which results in injury.

This offense may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the surrounding circumstances and the prosecutor’s discretion.


Weapons Offenses

The California Penal Code creates several misdemeanor offenses to regulate the use and sale of weapons in the state, including the following:

  • It is an offense for a person to knowingly file an ex-parte petition for a gun violence restraining order based on false information.
  •  It is also a misdemeanor for a person to violate a temporary emergency gun violence restraining order by owning a weapon or firearm when prohibited from doing so. The accused, in such cases, may be prevented from owning or having custody of a firearm within the next five years.
  • It is an offense to sell a less lethal weapon to a minor under 18. Less lethal weapons are those that immobilize, stun or incapacitate a human, but the effects need not be permanent. The punishment includes imprisonment for not more than six months at the county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.



The California Penal Code defines prostitution as engaging or agreeing to engage in sexual or lewd acts for money or other consideration, which amounts to disorderly conduct. The offense is classified as a misdemeanor and is punishable by jail time for a term not exceeding six months, a $1,000 fine, or both.

White Collar Crimes


White-collar crimes are non-violent offenses that individual business professionals or government employees usually commit. They are often committed in the workplace or while conducting business.

Some of these crimes may be categorized as misdemeanors, including the following:



Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of money or property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.

In an embezzlement charge, it is irrelevant that the accused intended to return the embezzled property unless it was restored before a formal charge or information was filed before a magistrate.

Embezzlement may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the appropriated property. However, where the property in question is public funds belonging to the state, a county, a municipality, or the federal government, the offense becomes a felony regardless of the value or amount.



The offense of forgery involves several types of actions along with the intention to defraud. Anyone who, without having the authority to do so and with fraudulent intention, signs the name of any person, actual or fictitious, to any of the following:

  • Checks or other bank documents
  • Controller’s warrant for the payment of money at the treasury
  • County orders or warrants
  • Receipt of payment of money, goods, or services
  • Bills of exchange, contracts, and promissory notes, amongst other documents.

Forgery is charged as a misdemeanor, especially if the accused is a first offender. In such cases, the penalty includes imprisonment in a county jail for not more than a year. Repeat offenders would likely face stricter penalties upon conviction.

Aiding a Misdemeanor


Under the California Penal Code, you can be charged with a misdemeanor for counseling and aiding another in the commission of the primary misdemeanor.

It doesn’t matter that you were not the principal perpetrator. Your assistance or encouragement to do the prohibited act would suffice to ground a charge.


Get Help With Your Misdemeanor Charge at the Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson

If you’re facing criminal charges for a misdemeanor in the San Francisco Bay Area or elsewhere in California, you can contact us at the Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson. We can assess your case and help you establish an appropriate defense where possible.

Our areas of practice and representation include domestic violence, white-collar crimes, and criminal expungement, among others. We aim to deliver quality legal services that see our clients acquitted or facing minimal sentences. Contact us to set up a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer and get started on your case.