Misdemeanors & Felonies
Under the laws of California, misdemeanors are defined as are crimes that are considered less serious than felonies, but can result in having to serve time in jail or fines up to $1,000. Misdemeanors carry a less severe punishment than a felony.
In some cases, misdemeanor offenses may be elevated to felonies. For instance, if the defendant caused a victim serious bodily harm or has prior criminal convictions, the defendant's misdemeanor charge may be elevated to a felony offense. When this happens, people are automatically facing jail time if they are convicted.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, now is the time to get Jeffrey D. Stulberg Law Office involved. To learn more about misdemeanors, visit our Misdemeanor FAQ section.
Unlike misdemeanor crimes, California felonies are more serious offenses and when people are convicted of a felony offense they will be sentenced with a year or more of jail time. Usually, people who have been convicted of felonies face imprisonment, but in certain cases like murder, people could be sentenced with the death penalty.
Additionally, unlike misdemeanor crimes and convictions, once people are convicted of a felony offense they will lose several of their civil rights. For example, a convicted felony offender will not be able to vote and will have limited opportunities when it comes to obtaining housing, education and employment.
Some of the more common felony crimes include: drunk driving causing bodily injury, drug crimes, robbery, burglary, sex crimes and violent crimes.
The consequences for a felony conviction will vary, but can be quite severe. Many felonies require a minimum multiple year State prison sentence. However, non-violent and first time felony offenders may receive probation and spend a short time , or no time , in the county jail provided that they comply with certain probation conditions. For crimes that can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, more discretion is permitted in sentencing. Additional years may be added to a felony sentence for specific aggravating circumstances (such as a crime involving a firearm) and for repeat offenses. Those with prior felony convictions may also be subject to the California Three Strikes law.
There are a number of consequences of felony convictions that should not be overlooked. For example, a felony conviction could make otherwise legal activities a crime (i.e., buying a gun). Finding employment or receiving certain state licenses (such as a state real estate license) may also be more difficult.
Felony Bail and Preliminary Hearings
Within a few days of arrest, every defendant that has been charged with a felony will be granted a bail hearing where the amount of bail is determined. The bail amount is usually based upon the severity of the offense, the chance of harm to others if released and the individual's flight risk.
Following bail proceedings, a preliminary hearing is required. During this proceeding, the evidence against the accused is presented. If the judge believes the evidence is sufficient enough move the case to trial, the defendant will be formally charged. Preliminary hearings almost always end up with an indictment or formal charge.
Most criminal charges are resolved through plea negotiations (bargaining) before going to trial. Depending on the history of the defendant, the facts of the case and the nature of the crime, a plea agreement/bargain may result in a desirable outcome. A deal agreed to by the prosecutor and defendant and approved by the judge will then be made final.
Deals vary and can result in pleading guilty to lesser felony charges, or, in some cases, misdemeanors. Any plea agreement or bargain offered should be reviewed by an experienced attorney. This is especially true in cases where the defendant is required to plead guilty to a felony (and possibly subject themselves to the Three Strikes Law in the future).
If a plea bargain cannot be reached, the case will go to trial. The upside to a trial is the possibility of an acquittal or conviction on lesser charges. However, very few criminal trials in California result in an acquittal. Felony criminal trials are often very complicated and the failure to prepare an adequate legal defense strategy could result in additional prison time and other devastating penalties.
Felony Defense Attorney
At Jeffrey D. Stulberg Law Office, we can assist you in preparing your defense, help you protect your constitutional rights and fight conviction in San Luis Obispo. When facing felony conviction, people absolutely need help from a serious and aggressive criminal defense lawyer who has the ability to produce winning case results like Attorney Stulberg. To get more information about our legal services and your defense options, contact our law office to schedule a free consultation.