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Misdemeanors are the Meat and Potatoes

The meat and potatoes of the criminal justice system, that is.

And you may think of them as small potatoes, but they’re not. They take up most of the space on the proverbial plate, and they’ve got bite.

They take up the most space because they make up eighty percent of all criminal cases across the country. That’s according to this law professor from the University of California, Irvine who’s studied the misdemeanor system extensively and written a forthcoming book about it. In her words, misdemeanors are “what our criminal system does most of the time to the most people.”

They pack a bite, too, because you suffer real consequences from a misdemeanor arrest or conviction. The direct punishments include fines, probation, and jail time (because you either can’t post bail, can’t pay your fines, or don’t get probation). But other consequences can include lower prospects for income or employment and the loss of certain rights, public benefits, or immigration status.

Not to mention the stigma that comes with a criminal record.

And there’s nothing petty about all that.

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