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Facing a Misdemeanor? Our Seattle Defense Attorneys Can Help

While a misdemeanor has less severe penalties than a felony, the result is still a mark on your criminal record. You face jail time, fines, and other consequences. But the misdemeanor defense lawyers at Emerald City Law Group can help you avoid the worst effects and protect your ability to move on with life.

From getting misdemeanors dismissed to going to trial, contact Emerald City Law Group for top-notch criminal defense.

Based in Seattle, We Assist People Across Washington and Offer Virtual Consultations. Initial Consults are Free, Confidential, and We’re Available 24/7 to Answer Your Questions.

Misdemeanors in Washington State

A misdemeanor may seem like a minimal criminal charge, but the penalties can be long-lasting and far-reaching. It’s essential to work with a lawyer who understands misdemeanor charges in Washington State and how to deal with them effectively. Emerald City Law Group is an experienced criminal defense law firm that can guide you through every aspect of.

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Washington Misdemeanors: What You Need to Know

In Washington, misdemeanors may be simple misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors. The classification of the crime depends on the severity and potential penalties. You should understand what you’re facing if you’re charged with a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Classifications & Penalties

According to Washington’s Revised Code (WRC), Section 9A.20.010, misdemeanors (often called simple misdemeanors) are crimes punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail. If no penalty is specified, the act is also considered a misdemeanor.

All crimes that are not classified as felonies or simple misdemeanors are considered gross misdemeanors. The maximum punishment for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors in Misdemeanor Cases

Aggravating and mitigating factors can be considered by a judge when sentencing you in a misdemeanor case. These factors can increase or decrease the severity of your punishment.

Aggravating factors can increase your culpability and make you more deserving of punishment. Some examples of aggravating factors in misdemeanors include:

  • Prior criminal record
  • Use of a weapon
  • Injury to a victim
  • Vulnerable victims, such as a child or an elderly person
  • Racially or religiously motivated offense

Mitigating factors are circumstances that can decrease your culpability and make you less deserving of harsh punishment. Examples of mitigating factors in misdemeanor cases are:

  • Lack of a prior criminal record
  • Minor role in the offense
  • The guilt of the victim (the victim contributed to the crime)
  • Mental health issues
  • Remorse

The judge will weigh each case’s aggravating and mitigating factors to determine the appropriate sentence. The judge has the discretion to impose a sentence within the statutory range for the offense, and the judge’s decision will be based on the case’s specific facts.

Negative Effects of a Misdemeanor

A misdemeanor conviction can have several collateral effects besides your official criminal sentence. These can significantly impact your life and make it difficult to find employment, housing, and attain other opportunities.

  • Difficulty finding employment or job loss
  • Loss of housing
  • Loss of public benefits
  • Difficulty obtaining or loss of professional licenses
  • Immigration difficulties or deportation
  • Difficulty traveling internationally
  • Difficulty getting loans and financial aid
  • Difficulty adopting children
  • Interference with child custody or visitation

Dealing with Misdemeanor Charges

The misdemeanor court process in Washington state generally follows the same process for felonies. However, there are some differences.

Arrest or Citation

If you are arrested for a misdemeanor, you may be taken to a police station or jail for booking. This is where you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned.

You will be read your Miranda rights, which inform you of your right to remain silent, to have an attorney present during questioning, and to stop questioning if you so desire. If you are not arrested but instead receive a citation, you will likely be given a summons to appear later in court.

Misdemeanor Arraignment

At your arraignment, you will be formally charged with the misdemeanor offense. You will also be informed of your rights, including the right to an attorney, a trial by jury, and the right to remain silent. You will also be asked to enter a plea. A plea is your response to the charges against you. You can plead guilty, or not guilty.


If you plead not guilty, your case will proceed to a pre-trial hearing. This is when your attorney will have the opportunity to review the evidence against you, file motions with the court, and commence negotiations with the prosecutor. Your defense attorney will work to negotiate a favorable resolution. You may be able to resolve your case with a plea agreement and avoid trial.

Misdemeanor Trials

If your case cannot be resolved during the pre-trial stage, it will proceed to trial. At trial, the prosecution will present evidence to prove the charges against you. You will have the opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and to present your own witnesses. The jury will then decide whether you are guilty or not guilty.

Misdemeanor Sentencing

If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor, you will be sentenced by the judge. The judge will consider various factors when sentencing you, including your criminal history, the severity of the offense, and any mitigating factors. Your sentence may include jail time, probation, treatment, community service, Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM), fines, and restitution to the victim.

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Washington Misdemeanor Info & Resources

Our misdemeanor attorneys can guide you through the misdemeanor case process. If you have additional questions, reach out to Emerald City Law Group as soon as possible.

What Is a Gross Misdemeanor?

In Washington state, a gross misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. This makes gross misdemeanors more serious than simple misdemeanors but less serious than felonies.

Some examples of gross misdemeanors in Washington state include Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Physical Control, Reckless Driving, Assault in the 4th Degree, Malicious Mischief in the 3rd Degree, and Theft in the 3rd Degree.

Are Some Traffic Offenses Misdemeanors in Washington?

Some traffic offenses can be classified as gross misdemeanors, such as DUI or Reckless Driving, while less serious traffic infractions like speeding are not criminal and are treated as civil infractions.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors in Washington?

The statute of limitations for most misdemeanors in Washington State is generally 1 year, which means the state has 1 year from the date of the alleged offense to file charges. DUI, Physical Control, and Assault in the 4th Degree have a statute of limitations for 2 years.

Can a Misdemeanor Affect Child Custody?

Potentially, yes. The court may consider misdemeanor charges, especially those involving domestic violence or substance abuse when making determinations about the best interests of a child in custody cases.

Does a Misdemeanor Show Up on Background Checks?

Yes, a misdemeanor will typically show up on a criminal background check in Washington State unless it has been vacated or expunged from your record.

Can I Expunge a Misdemeanor in Washington?

In Washington state, you can expunge a misdemeanor if you meet the following requirements:

  • You must have been convicted of a misdemeanor that is not a domestic violence offense.
  • You must have completed all the terms of your sentence, including probation and legal financial obligations.
  • At least three years must have passed since you completed the terms of your sentence.
  • You must not have been convicted of any new crimes three years before your application.

If you are considering expunging a misdemeanor, it is important to speak with a misdemeanor lawyer to help determine if you are eligible for expungement.

Don’t Wait. Call a Seattle Misdemeanor Defense Lawyer.

A misdemeanor lawyer with Emerald City Law Group will listen to your story and stand by your side throughout the legal process. You should contact us right away. However, if you cannot reach out, you can have a friend or family member call Emerald City Law Group. We will explain the process and help them get you out of jail.

Emerald City Law Group Will:

  • Help you understand Washington misdemeanor laws and potential penalties
  • Work to get your criminal charges dismissed entirely
  • Protect your rights and your reputation
  • Challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you
  • Communicate clearly and honestly with you throughout the case
  • Take your case to trial and work to get the best outcome possible

Defense Attorneys Serving Washington – Free Consults 24/7

Emerald City Law Group provides Seattle and the greater Washington area with high-caliber legal representation for those facing misdemeanor charges.

Seattle – Local Areas Served

  • King County – Bellevue, Auburn, Kent, Renton, Federal Way, Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell, Carnation, Duvall, Issaquah, Maple Valley, Mercer Island, Sammamish, Seattle, & Woodinville
  • Snohomish County – Everett, Lynnwood, and Marysville.
  • Pierce County – Tacoma, Puyallup, Gig Harbor, and Lakewood
    • Greater Washington

      • Grays Harbor
      • Kittitas County
      • Spokane County
      • Cowlitz County
      • Douglas County
      • Mason County
      • Skagit County
      • Thurston County
      • Island County
      • Mason County
      • Grays County
      • Kitsap County
      • Lewis County
      • Whatcom County
      • Whitman County
      • San Juan County