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Crimes And Misdemeanors



The movie intercuts this tragic story with a comedy, also about adultery. The technique is Shakespearean: The crimes of kings are mirrored for comic effect in the foibles of the lower orders. Allen plays Cliff Stern, a maker of documentaries of stultifying boredom; in one, an old man in thick glasses discusses metaphysics. Cliff is married to Wendy (Joanna Gleason). She has two brothers: Ben (Sam Waterston), the rabbi, who is going blind and is being treated by Judah, and Lester (Alan Alda), the creator of incredibly successful TV sitcoms.




Crimes and Misdemeanors



As a general rule, misdemeanors are crimes that carry a potential jail sentence of no more than one year. Conviction of a felony can lead to a much longer sentence, including life in prison, or even capital punishment in some states. A misdemeanor conviction can also lead to a fine, probation, community service and/or restitution, but there are limits on those types of penalties. Conviction of a felony often carries a fine and probation but also can result in the loss of other privileges of citizenship, including the right to vote. In addition, most felonies require the prosecution to show the defendant intended to commit the criminal act, whereas you can be convicted of some misdemeanors based only on recklessness or carelessness (negligence).


Many states classify misdemeanors, with varying levels of punishment for the different classes. Those schemes typically differentiate types of misdemeanors based on the dollar amount of the loss (property offenses) or the seriousness of the injury (bodily crimes against a person). A common approach is to categorize misdemeanors as Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 and Class 4, or, alternatively, Class A, Class B, Class C and Class D. In those jurisdictions, the Class 1/Class A misdemeanors are the most serious.


During the 1878 Constitutional Convention, the framers debated how to define an impeachable offense. Eventually they settled on acts of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," but scholars argue that the framers did not intend impeachment to be restricted to criminal behavior.


During the 1878 Constitutional Convention, the framers debated how to define an impeachable offense. Eventually they settled on acts of \"treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,\" but scholars argue that the framers did not intend impeachment to be restricted to criminal behavior.


Moreover, while continued fandom may not send a clear message that others ought to continue as well, it may contribute to a culture in which overlooking such behavior is considered normal. In the case of Allen, it may contribute, albeit in a small way, to the social practice of making allowances for the sexual misdemeanors of talented or powerful men. There is then, good reason to worry that continued fandom sends a message that the fan condones the immoral behavior of their idol.


After Philadelphia, the Framers who addressed the impeachment clause in the state ratifying conventions, and the other delegates to those state conventions who discussed impeachment and voted to ratify the Constitution, consistently affirmed, with specific examples, the understanding that the impeachment power would broadly reach all manner of serious offenses against the government, including usurpations of authority, abuses of power, and breaches of trust. No delegate to the ratifying conventions, including those who opposed ratification, contended that impeachment was or should be limited to remedying only indictable crimes.REF


If the text of the Constitution and the analysis of the Framers and early constitutional commentators left any room for doubt that impeachable offenses are not limited to prosecutable crimes, the record of impeachment charges approved by the House of Representatives over the history of the republic puts the question to rest.


Both the 1974 and the 2019 reports delve into the reasons why impeachable offenses cannot be confined to prosecutable crimes. First, criminal law and impeachment serve very different purposes: personal punishment of the offender in the case of the criminal law, versus protecting the office and insulating the exercise of governmental power from personal misconduct in the case of impeachment.REF Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution confirms this fundamental difference by limiting the consequences of conviction in cases of impeachment and by making clear that an officer who has been impeached and removed from office is nevertheless liable under law for harms caused by his misconduct in office and remains subject to indictment, trial, and punishment if that misconduct was criminal in nature.REF


In every state, crimes are put into distinct categories. The categories are usually "felony," "misdemeanor," and "infraction." Decisions on crime classification are made by state legislators; the determination focuses on the seriousness of the crime. This article looks at the differences among these crime classifications, moving from least serious (infractions) to most (felonies).


Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that carry up to a year in jail in most states. (Some states have made the maximum imprisonment for many or all misdemeanors 364 days; that change is designed to avoid deportation consequences that would have been triggered if the misdemeanor in question carried the possibility of, or if the misdemeanor defendant actually received, a full one-year sentence.) Punishment for misdemeanors can also include payment of a fine, probation, community service, and restitution. Defendants charged with misdemeanors are often entitled to a jury trial. Indigent defendants charged with misdemeanors are usually entitled to legal representation at government expense. Some states subdivide misdemeanors by class or degree or define more serious misdemeanor offenses as "gross misdemeanors." These classifications determine the severity of punishment.


Felonies are the most serious type of criminal offense. Felonies often involve serious physical harm (or threat of harm) to victims, but they also include offenses like white collar crimes and fraud schemes. Offenses that otherwise are misdemeanors can be elevated to felonies for second-time offenders. A felony conviction, like a misdemeanor conviction, may not result in time behind bars. But felonies carry potential imprisonment that ranges from time in prison (a year is often the low end) to life in prison without parole or even death. As with misdemeanors, states may also subdivide felonies by class or degree.


In all states and under the federal criminal code, a misdemeanor is a crime punishable by incarceration and, sometimes, a fine. A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony but more so than an infraction. States define felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions by their potential penalties.Often, the maximum punishment possible for a misdemeanor will be a year in a local jail. (A few states provide misdemeanor penalties as high as two or three years' incarceration.) If the crime carries a potential prison sentence of over a year, the offense becomes a felony. Infractions (sometimes called violations) are usually fine-only offenses with no possibility of incarceration (such as traffic tickets).


Many states divide their misdemeanors into different levels or classifications, such as class A (or level 1) misdemeanors, class B (or level 2) misdemeanors, and so on. Some states use other terms for each level, such as "misdemeanor," "high misdemeanor," or "gross misdemeanor."The purpose of grouping misdemeanors into classes or levels is to assign punishments that fit the severity of the offense. For example, a state might define a misdemeanor as any crime punishable by up to a year in jail and then further divide misdemeanors into classes or levels. Here, a class C misdemeanor might max out at 90 days' jail time, class B misdemeanors go up to 180 days in jail, and class A misdemeanors carry the potential for a year in jail.


The following states classify their misdemeanor crimes into classes or levels: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Thus, these states have class B or level 2 misdemeanors.


In these states, legislators did not use the terms "class" or "level," but they did group their misdemeanor crimes by severity: Georgia (misdemeanors and misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature), Hawaii (petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor), Iowa (aggravated, serious, or simple), Minnesota (gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or petty misdemeanor), Nevada (gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor), New Jersey (disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense), New Mexico (petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor), Rhode Island (misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor), and Washington (gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor).


But a few states, including Arizona, California, and Indiana, have created a group of crimes that can be punished either by time in state prison or in the county jail. Under the California scheme, the characterization of the crime depends on the ultimate punishment meted out. Such crimes "wobble" between misdemeanor and felony; when the defendant is sentenced to state prison, the offense is a felony, but when the sentence is to county jail, it becomes a misdemeanor. In California, all such offenses start out as presumed felonies, unless the prosecutor charges them as misdemeanors. California judges can reduce a felony conviction for a wobbler offense to a misdemeanor at sentencing; in some states, courts can reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor when the defendant successfully completes probation.


  • Tropes appearing in Crimes and Misdemeanors include: Author Avatar: As usual, Woody's character is a Deadpan Snarker with relationship issues.

  • Big Brother Worship: Cliff's wife Wendy is Lester's sister. It's unclear which is the older sibling, but Wendy greatly admires her brother.

  • Black Sheep: Jack with his mafia connections and various legal/financial troubles is clearly this to his family, especially when compared to the successful, high class Judah. Jack is aware of this when Judah comes running to him with a problem that won't go away.

  • Body Motifs: The eyes. Judah's father, a religious man, was fond of saying that "The eyes of God are on us always" when Judah was a boy. Judah grew up and became an opthamologist. Judah's rabbi went blind right about the same time Judah had Dolores killed. When Judah visited the scene of the crime, he found Dolores dead but with her eyes still open. He took a moment to close them.

  • Brutal Honesty: Lester outright tells Cliff that he only is hiring him out of pity and as a favor to his sister.

  • Almost all interactions between Judah and Jack. Jack bluntly declares that Judah only calls him when Judah needs some dirty work done.

  • Cool Uncle: Cliff is this to Jenny.

  • Covers Always Lie: The image most commonly used for this film shows Martin Landau and Woody Allen sitting next to each other. In fact, their characters share exactly one scene.

  • Deadpan Snarker: Cliff, like most of Woody Allen's alter ego characters.

  • Death Seeker: Arguably Dolores. She repeatedly threatens to ruin Judah's life both personally (by revealing their affair to his wife) and professionally (by letting his partners know of his embezzlement). Assuming she knows of his gangster brother, it's not hard to guess what he might resort to. Could also qualify as an Idiot Ball if she wasn't deliberately seeking death.

  • Did Not Get the Girl: Despite their close friendship, Halley isn't interested in a romantic relationship with Cliff. Even worse, she's successfully seduced by Lester, who Cliff utterly despises.

  • Dies Wide Open: Dolores. Her dead eyes pierce through Judah's soul.

  • Doing It for the Art: invoked Cliff. His wife Wendy urges him to use his filmmaking talents for greater financial gain and peer recognition. To that end, she arranges for her brother Lester to get profiled by Cliff.

  • Driven to Suicide: Cliff's favorite documentary subject, a professor who seems to have a sunny outlook on life, kills himself. Cliff is especially depressed about his suicide note: "I've gone out the window."

  • Gallows Humor: Honestly, a story about a man whom Cliff's sister meets through a personal ad and debases her and might have raped her shouldn't be funny - but it's hilarious.

  • Heel Realization: Judah. Subverted in that he learns he can live quite comfortably with his deeds.

  • Idiot Ball: Cliff is offered a high-paying, high-profile job by his arrogant but well-connected brother-in-law Lester to create a hagiographic documentary that could potentially lead to more lucrative work. Instead, he deliberately sabotages it by comparing the egocentric Lester to Mussolini, getting himself fired.

  • I Did What I Had to Do: Judah uses this as a personal mantra as an excuse for killing Dolores. Jack calls him out on it on several points: Judah could have avoided everything by taking responsibility for his actions, and when Judah goes through handwringing, Jack dryly tells him he obviously has no problem with killing Dolores, since why else would he ask a mob connected brother to help him with the problem that if exposed, exposes Jack's criminal connections? Jack basically says Judah feels bad about not feeling bad about what he's doing.

  • Ignored Epiphany: Judah realizes what he's doing is morally bankrupt, and agonizes over it, then just shrugs and basically says I Am a Monster and a Villain with Good Publicity and lives with it.

  • Intergenerational Friendship: Cliff's niece seems to be one of the few people in his life who likes and respects him. Everyone else either dismisses him or treats him with condescending pity.

  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Lester is indeed an arrogant and narcissistic egotist, he's also spot-on when he calls Cliff a loser and says that he needs to grow up. Cliff's attitude has made it all but impossible for him to be gainfully employed.

  • Cliff's wife is a cold and unpleasant woman who treats her husband with utter contempt and disgust. At least some of her contempt towards Cliff is justified by his lack of gainful employment and general inability to get his act together.

  • Karma Houdini: Judah isn't even suspected of having his mistress murdered, let alone punished.

  • Large Ham: Lester.

  • Loser Protagonist: Cliff. Or rather, loser Deuteragonist, since the other half of the film concerns the largely unconnected story of the very successful (but criminal) Judah.

  • Meaningful Name: Dolores spends most of the movie severely depressed. "Dolores" means "sorrows".

  • The Mistress: Dolores.

  • Mood Whiplash: From tragedy to comedy and back again.

  • My Card: Detective: "If you remember anything that might help..."

  • My God, What Have I Done?: Judah experiences this, but he gets over it.

  • Not So Above It All: The outwardly respectable and high-class Judah turns out to be not so morally different from his gangster brother Jack.

  • Ominous Legal Phrase Title: From part of the formal definition of an impeachable offense in US law; originating in UK law but obsolete there due to impeachments no longer being used.

  • A Rare Sentence: Cliff: A strange man... defecated on my sister.

  • Serial Numbers Filed Off: invoked Lester is basically Larry Gelbart, whom Woody Allen and Alan Alda had both worked with and weren't enamored of. The quotes Lester makes like "Comedy is tragedy plus time"? Gelbart constantly prattled those aphorisms on the set of M*A*S*H and elsewhere. Also falls under the No Celebrities Were Harmed trope.

  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: The Central Theme of the film, and basically what Judah tells Cliff when Cliff suggests a Happy Ending for the "story" Judah tells him (which he doesn't know is actually a confession).Judah: What do you expect him to do? Turn himself in? I mean, this is reality. In reality, we rationalise, we deny, or we couldn't go on living. Cliff: Here's what I would do. I would have him turn himself in. 'Cause then, you see, your story assumes tragic proportions because, in the absence of a God, he is forced to assume that responsibility himself. Then you have tragedy. Judah: But that's fiction. That's movies. You see too many movies. I'm talkin' about reality. I mean, if you want a happy ending, you should go see a Hollywood movie.

  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Woody's previous film Hannah and Her Sisters. Hannah ends optimistically with life being worth living even if you will never know the answers to the greatest questions. In contrast this film ends with the brutal and shocking nihilism that as Roger Ebert put it, "virtue is punished and evil doing is rewarded."

  • Take That!: Cliff, to Lester. Cliff screens his profile doc for Lester, who is treated to seeing himself making a sleazy pass at an actress and hearing his words set to footage of Benito Mussolini and Francis The Talking Mule. Lester was not amused.

  • This Loser Is You: Cliff is a posterboy for the idealistic artist who lacks the maturity and practical sense to realize that he can't support himself financially with his own pet projects. He quit his previous job as a newsreel editor and intentionally sabotaged an opportunity reluctantly given to him by his brother-in-law, and all he has to show for his stubbornness and lack of income is an honorable mention at a local film festival. In the end, Cliff's pig-headed, misplaced ideals put him in a place in life where nobody except his twelve year-old niece likes his company or takes him seriously.

  • Un-Confession: Judah indirectly confesses to having his mistress murdered when talking to Cliff, by telling it as a fictional story about a fictional person.

  • Villain Has a Point: Jack tells Judah that the right time to confess was to his wife about his affair before any actual crimes were committed, not to the the police after having his inconvenient mistress murdered.

  • Villain Protagonist: Judah, technically the villian Deuteragonist because half of the film focuses on his story, the other on the non-villainous (but rather pitiful) Cliff.

  • Villain with Good Publicity: Judah hired a hitman to get rid of his mistress and probably embezzled money from the charity that he ran to cover his own debts. Judah keeps his dark side well-hidden, so he's adored by his family and remains highly respected by his colleagues and local community.

  • Yandere: Dolores.

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