Municipal Code Violations: Crimes You Didn’t Know Were Crimes
What is a Municipal Code Violation?
Nearly all crimes in California are governed by the California Penal Code, Welfare and Institutions Code, Health and Safety Code, or the Vehicle Code. These laws are enforced, to some degree, consistently across the state of California.
However, local government bodies, including cities and counties are also able to pass laws which may result in criminal punishments and misdemeanor convictions. (Government Code section 23152 and Penal Cod section 19.) A misdemeanor may only be punished by incarceration in a county jail, never in a state prison, and never for longer than 364 days. These city and county laws are commonly codified in Municipal (city) and County codes.
A municipal code misdemeanor is exactly like a state law misdemeanor in that a conviction of a municipal code misdemeanor will be logged as a criminal conviction on your permanent criminal record and may subject you to common criminal law sanctions like summary probation and fines.
Fortunately, the vast majority of municipal code violations may also be charged as infractions, so judges frequently reduce municipal code misdemeanors to their corresponding infraction. An infraction is a crime which can only be punished by a fine not to exceed $250
Because every city and county in California have such misdemeanors, it is impossible to provide an inclusive list, however, you will find that municipal codes frequently control and criminalize things like
- Loud noise in public spaces
- Public decency (nudity)
- Uses of public land and roads
- Flier canvassing
- Defacing public property
- Public Intoxication or Alcohol Consumption
- Panhandling and Homelessness crimes
- Operation of marijuana businesses
What’s the Worst that could happen?
Any misdemeanor may be punished by $1,000 fine and up to 1 year in county jail.
Further, many misdemeanors including municipal code violations may have extremely adverse consequences to non-citizens. In fact, whenever a misdemeanor plea is taken in court, a judge is required to instruct the defendant that, “If you are not a citizen, you are hereby advised that conviction of the offense for which you have been charged may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United States.” (Penal Code section 1016.5)
And for federal immigration consequences, even certain infractions are considered crimes of moral turpitude, meaning they can lead to the deportation of non-citizens (Title 8 U.S. Code section 1227)
What should I do if I am charged with a Municipal Code violation?
You should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Manshoory Law Group, APC to assist you in analyzing the specific facts of your case, preparing and presenting defenses before and during trial, and making sure you understand your rights and helping you enforce them. The consequences of even small criminal matters like municipal code violations can be far reaching and much greater than you expect. Call now for a free consultation at (877) 977-7750.