Basics of Idaho Misdemeanor Sentencing and Penalties

There are essentially two types of cases in Idaho, Misdemeanors, and Felonies. Misdemeanors are lesser crimes with maximum penalties of no more than 1 year in jail, and usually $1,000 fine (some cases might require a higher fine). You cannot go to prison for a misdemeanor conviction. You can only do local county jail time.

Felonies, however, bring with them the possibility of going to prison. In some cases, the time in prison may be up to life. Fines for felonies may be significantly higher. Felony convictions may also impact an individual’s constitutional rights (carry firearms, vote, hold public office, serve on a jury, etc.). Below, are the basics of misdemeanor sentencing and penalties in the State of Idaho. If you are facing any misdemeanor charges contact our criminal defense attorneys.

Possible Penalties for Misdemeanors in Idaho

There are essentially three ways a court can punish you for misdemeanors in the State of Idaho, 1) Jail, 2) Fines, 3) Probation (Unsupervised & Supervised), and 4) License Suspension:


How long could I go to jail for a misdemeanor in Idaho?

For a misdemeanor case, the maximum jail time allowed depends on the charge you plead guilty to or are found guilty of; however, it can never be longer than 1 year in the county jail. For example, misdemeanor theft charges carry a maximum penalty of 1 year in the county jail, a standard 1st time DUI brings with it the possibility of 6 months in jail, and a misdemeanor Assault only allows the judge to order you to 3 months in jail. The type of charge will dictate the maximum penalty.

Will I actually serve the maximum jail penalty?

Most judges don’t order the maximum penalty on misdemeanor cases. Usually, the overall jail sentence will be much less. Idaho has large jail overcrowding issues, so some judges are encouraged to not send people to jail for an extended period of time. Often times, someone will not do more jail time than when they were originally arrested for the offense, but a judge will require them to do Community Service or SILD (see below) in place of jail. When people actually do serve the maximum sentence, it is usually because they have violated a term of supervised or unsupervised probation (see below).

What does it mean when the judge suspends jail time?

When the judge suspends jail time, that means they are placing you on some form of probation, supervised or unsupervised (see below). The amount of jail time that is suspended is for the judge to use if you break a rule, or violate a condition of probation. So, for example, a judge may say that he is sentencing you to 180 days jail, but that 180 days jail is suspended. That means if you violate a condition of probation the judge has 180 days jail that he can put you in jail.

What happens if I’m ordered community service or sheriff’s inmate labor duty (SILD) for jail time?

One of the options a judge has at sentencing is to order community service (CS) or Sherriff’s Inmate Labor Duty (SILD) in lieu of jail time. Typically, they will say they are ordering a certain number of hours of Community Service or SILD “in lieu of jail” (e.g. 24 hours of CS in lieu of 10 days jail). They will also order a deadline by which that CS or SILD needs to be completed.

That means that if you do not complete the required CS by the deadline, the judge will send you to jail for the 10 days. CS is typically run through the County Probation Office, and the SILD is run through the Sherriff’s Office. You might have seen individuals completing SILD by doing highway pickup. If you look closely, the van or the bus that is parked nearby is typically marked on the side with “Sherriff’s Inmate Labor Detail or Duty.”


How much will I pay in fines for a misdemeanor?

Although the maximum fine for most misdemeanors is $1,000, the Judge makes the decision on how much you pay, and judges are very different in how they punish with fines. Most judges go easy on fines as they understand that a lot of the people they deal with have a hard time making ends meet, but every case is different, every judge is different, and every person’s circumstance is different.

We often see fines ordered between $300-$600; however, in some cases the judge will waive the fine, which means, no fines at all. Additionally, courts are required to order court costs. Court Costs cannot be waived. The judge is required to give them. Court Costs are determined by the charge. It is typically under $200.

Can I make payments on my court fines?

Usually, judges allow time to pay fines on misdemeanors. When you are sentenced on a case, a judge might ask how much time is needed to pay. They are generally very reasonable in allowing sufficient time to pay depending on an individual’s circumstances.

What does it mean if my fines on a case have been suspended?

Often times a court will order that you pay fines at sentencing, but also say they are suspended. They may say for example, they are ordering that an individual pay $500 in fines, but that they suspend $250 of them. This means that you are placed on some form of probation, and if you violate probation, the judge can order that you pay the remaining $250. If there are never any probation violations and you successfully complete probation, you will never have to pay the suspended fine.

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What is misdemeanor probation?

When a judge sentences you or punishes you for a misdemeanor crime in the State of Idaho, they can put you on a form of probation for up to two years per charge, but may require less (i.e. 12 months, 5 months, 90 days, etc.). The different types of probation are Supervised Probation and Unsupervised Probation. When you are placed on Probation, the judge sets rules or conditions of probation that you are required to follow.

If you violate the terms of probation, then the judge can place you in jail up to the period of jail time he suspended when he originally sentenced you. For example, at sentencing on a DUI, you were placed on Unsupervised Probation for 180 days. You break a rule of probation and you are found in violation of probation by the court. At that point, the judge can put you in jail for 180 days.

What is the difference between unsupervised and supervised probation?

Supervised Probation: When a judge sentences you to probation he is assigning the local county’s probation office to your case. There will be a probation officer (PO) in that office that will keep track of you for the duration of your time on probation. The PO will ensure that you are keeping the rules or conditions of probation.

If the judge orders, they will be able to drug and alcohol test you, assign you to get drug and alcohol, or other types of evaluations, require you to attend treatment, require you to meet with them in their office, and the list goes on. POs, if allowed by the court, can also come to your home and search it for drugs or other probation violations. Essentially, the PO is in charge of making sure you’re following the rules.

Unsupervised Probation: If the judge puts you on unsupervised probation, they are NOT assigning a probation officer. They make rules or conditions, but they don’t have someone over your shoulder making sure you are compliant. You are simply a name in the computer, and if the prosecutor’s office or the court finds out you’re in violation (e.g. if you catch a new charge), the court can find you in violation of probation and order the suspended jail time in your case.

Sometimes the court might not assign a PO, but they will set Review Hearings. They may ask you to complete certain tasks as conditions of unsupervised probation and then set a hearing as a deadline to see if you’ve complied with what they asked or ordered.

What are some common conditions of probation?

Judges can order many different conditions as part of probation, it’s essentially in their discretion so long as it is not in violation of a constitutional right, law, or outside their power. Examples of common conditions of probation are:

  • No further law violations (i.e. no new misdemeanors or felonies). Traffic infractions typically don’t apply
  • No consumption of controlled substances without a valid prescription;
  • No consumption of alcohol;
  • Requirement that you be Drug and Alcohol Testing when they ask;
  • That you be submit to search of your residence;
  • That you waive your right to 4th amendment protecting against unlawful searches and seizures (meaning that you can be stopped by law enforcement even when it’s in violation of your 4th amendment right);
  • That you don’t enter any bars or liqueur stores;
  • That you not drive unless validly licensed and insured;
  • That you not drive, etc.
  • That you attend treatment as required by a specific evaluator.
  • That you have No Contact with a certain individual.

How does the court determine if I am in violation of probation?

When someone is claimed to have violated probation, the prosecutor will file a Petition for Probation Violation. That petition for probation violation will typically state what rule or condition the individual is alleged to have broken. You can either receive a summons (paperwork requiring you to appear in court), or you can be arrested and brought in front of the judge. You are not entitled to bond on a probation violation and may be required to sit in jail until your case is resolved or you have an Evidentiary Hearing for your case.

Your rights are significantly limited on a probation violation. You have certain rights to due process, but they are significantly limited compared to the rights you originally had on the charge that put you on probation. With the original charge, you had a right to a Jury Trial, and the right to have the State prove “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” that you were guilty of the original charge. On a probation violation, however, the State is still required to prove its case, but the amount of proof required is only a “Preponderance of Evidence (%51)”, and there is no right to Jury Trial. The judge determines whether there is a violation.

Additionally, many of the Rules of Evidence that can help level the playing field on the original charge do not apply at an Evidentiary Hearing for a probation violation. For example, a prosecutor is allowed to use hearsay evidence to prove a probation violation, which is not allowed at a jury trial unless it meets an exception. Often times, probation violations are proven when a PO comes into the courtroom and testifies to what the violation is. If there is enough, evidence the judge will find a violation. You can either be sentenced for the probation violation that day, or it can be set out for sentencing.

Drivers License Suspension

How long can my driver’s license be suspended?

The amount of time your license can be suspended will depend on what law you violated. If you plead guilty or are found guilty to a 1st time DUI, your license can be suspended between 90-180 days. If you plead guilty or are found guilty of a 2nd time DUI, your license will be suspended for 1 year. However, lesser crimes require lesser suspension. For example, suspensions for reckless driving start at 30 days and get longer if it is a second or third offense. Judges cannot suspend your license on any misdemeanor case, they are only allowed to suspend your license if the specific law that you violated allows it.

The court suspension is different from the Administrative License Suspension you receive on any DUI. If you fail a breath test, blow above a .08, your license will be suspended for 90 days. If you refuse a breath test the license suspension will last a year. That is a different suspension from the suspension the court allows.

If you are caught driving while your license is suspended it can be the cause for a new criminal charge and/or probation violation.

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