Sentencing in Criminal Cases

Often the most pressing questions on clients’ minds are, “How can my bail be reduced,” or “When will the Order of Protection expire?” But the potential punishment a judge could impose after a trial is always an important consideration in determining how strong the case is being brought against you.

Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to one year in county or city jails. 

A Class A misdemeanor, such as Assault in the Third Degree, P.L. §120.00,  Petit Larceny, P.L. §155.25, or Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, P.L. §265.01, is the most serious, punishable by up to a year in jail, generally 2 or 3 years of probation, or fines of up to $1,000. 

A Class B misdemeanor, such as Harassment in the First Degree, P.L. §240.25 and Prostitution, P.L. §230, is punishable by up to 3 months jail and/or a $500 fine.

Some misdemeanors are “unclassified,” such as Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle, V.T.L. §511, and the punishments for these vary between 30 days to 6 months in jail, and up to $1,000 in fines.

Your attorney should always explore resolving a misdemeanor charge with a non-criminal disposition, such as Disorderly Conduct (either P.L. §240.20 or NYC Administrative Code 10-179), or an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (an “ACD”).

Felonies are the most serious criminal charges, and the punishment for individual felonies can vary between a fixed number of years in state prison, or a range of years. You may have heard the term, “mandatory minimum sentences,” and this is where they come into play depending on the Class of the felony charges. Prosecutors often “offer” reduced charges in the course of negotiating with defense attorneys to get around these limitations, but there are a number of rules that complicate matters.

Some felonies are referred to as “violent” felonies, which will result in higher sentences. Furthermore, if you have been convicted of a felony previously (generally within the last 10 years), this can also result in higher sentences. Finally, felonies involving narcotics have their own unique sentences. 

A felonies (differentiated by A-1 and A-2) are crimes like aggravated murder, arson, terrorism, possession of chemical weapons, kidnapping, and possession or sale of high volumes of narcotics.

B felonies can include homicide crimes, violent assault, armed robbery, rape, and some possession and sale of drugs.

C felonies include serious assault, large thefts or financial frauds, and reckless manslaughter.

D felonies include varying types of frauds, robbery, burglary, and other violent crimes.

E felonies are the least serious, and include most conspiracies, computer crimes, negligent homicide, and less serious thefts, larcenies, and frauds.

The following charts show the sentences authorized for varying Classes of Felonies depending on the history of the defendant:

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