California Penal Code 19 PC - Misdemeanor penalties


Penal Code 19 PC is the California statute that specifies misdemeanor punishments. These are up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. Judges rarely order jail for first-time offenders. And most cases settle without a trial. 

California Penal Code 19 PC states:

Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.

Legal Analysis

Misdemeanors are harsher than infractions, like speeding (VC 22350). And misdemeanors are laxer than felonies, like selling drugs (HS 11352). Five common misdemeanors include:

  1. Petty theft (PC 484)
  2. Trespass (PC 602)
  3. Solicitation (PC 653f)
  4. Being drunk in public (PC 647f)
  5. Indecent exposure (PC 314) (first offense)

Some misdemeanors carry extra penalties. These may include community service and restitution. For first-time DUI, the judge also imposes probation. The defendant must complete DUI School. And it affects driving privileges. For second-time DUI, the maximum jail sentence can be 12 months.

Many defendants are eligible for diversion programs. Once it is done, the charge gets dismissed and sealed. A common diversion program is for first-time drug possession (HS 11350) defendants.

Certain misdemeanors are wobblers. This means the D.A. may prosecute them as either misdemeanors or felonies. But the maximum misdemeanor jail sentence is doubled to one (1) year. Three common California wobblers include:

  1. Stalking (PC 646.9)
  2. Sexual battery (PC 243.4)
  3. Grand theft (PC 487)

And a few misdemeanors are "wobblettes." These can be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or infractions. Unlike misdemeanors, infractions carry no jail time. But defendants lose their right to a jury trial.

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