Misdemeanor and felony cases differ primarily in how jury trials are handled. A misdemeanor case is decided by a jury of six (6) people, while felony juries have twelve (12) members. Only felony cases have preliminary hearings.
The value of property involved is less in misdemeanor cases. Theft of $500.00 is considered Grand Larceny and punished as a felony, but stealing less than $500.00 is Petit Larceny, which is a misdemeanor crime.
The danger to the victim tends to be less in violent misdemeanor cases. This does not mean that the case is less important, but that the injuries or threats to persons are not as severe. An assault with a knife or a gun would likely be considered a felony, while a similar attack by an unarmed person would probably be filed as a misdemeanor.
The Misdemeanor division prosecutes all wildlife law violations, traffic citations, felony probation violations, truancy cases, and felony Driving Under the Influence cases that have been set for trial
In 2004, there were over 5100 misdemeanor cases filed in the county. There were approximately 32,000 traffic citations issued in by the Highway Patrol, County Sheriff’s Office, and/or campus police agencies. There were 129 wildlife citations. About 3000 people who violated the terms of their probation were held accountable by the misdemeanor division.
Truancy is a crime that is charged when a parent neglects to make sure that their child attends school. Once the child has missed over 10 unexcused absences, the school notifies the District Attorney’s office and a summons is sent to the parent ordering a court appearance. There, a school representative, the District Attorney’s office and various interested persons work together to ensure the child’s success in school. We handled over 350 truancy cases in 2004.
A new law was recently enacted to allow the District Attorney’s Office to supervise people who have been placed on probation. This program allows our staff to make sure all probationers comply with the requirements of the sentence, such as paying restitution to the victim of a crime or completing treatment for behavior problems or substance abuse. Defendants sentenced to probation who are not supervised by the Department of Corrections complete an initial intake with the District Attorney’s Office and are required by law to pay a month supervision fee of $20. Once the probation requirements are completed, the offenders send in reports detailing their performance. The supervision is terminated at the end of the sentence.