Being stopped by police, even if it is just related to a traffic violation, is likely to create a lot of stress and tension, but this anxiety is multiplied when the questioning is related to the commission of a crime. Most people would understandably become quite nervous and may forget basic information or say something they did not mean in order to get out of the situation. This is even more likely if the questioning takes place at a police station where the authority and influence of police is at its highest. Any time a person is involved in a criminal investigation, regardless whether charges are pending or not, a criminal defense attorney needs to be consulted to ensure rights are protected and the potential for government abuse is cut-off.
California’s harsh criminal sentencing laws and overcrowded jails are no secret in the U.S., but Governor Jerry Brown is attempting to bring some reform to the criminal justice system with his sponsorship of Proposition 57. This measure, up for approval by voters in November, would grant parole consideration to non-violent offenders and give Department of Corrections’ officials the authority to give credit to prisoners for good behavior and approved educational and rehabilitative achievements. While this law would help those currently incarcerated, someone facing criminal charges first needs to understand the possible penalties they could confront if convicted. California’s sentencing system is one of the most complex in the country, but a general outline of typical punishments for misdemeanors and felonies will follow below.
Misdemeanors are less serious offenses that generally bring fines, probation and county jail time as potential punishments. The standard sentences for misdemeanors, such as petty theft and public drunkenness, are county jail time up to one year and fines up to $1,000. These are baseline sentence guidelines, but they increase if aggravated misdemeanors (such as domestic battery) are charged, or if the alleged crime is a “wobbler” offense. A wobbler offense means the prosecutor has discretion to charge a person with a misdemeanor or felony for same offense. The facts of the case, and the defendant’s criminal history determine which choice the prosecutor makes, and misdemeanor wobblers can bring higher fines for certain offenses. In addition, misdemeanor sentences will almost always include probation, and the conditions imposed must be followed to avoid jail time. Standard probation conditions include:
- community service;
- electronic monitoring or house arrest;
- counseling/treatment programs; and
- paying the victim restitution.
Felonies are serious offenses, like murder and assault, which can bring long prison sentences. At its most basic, felony convictions are subject to jail or prison time in excess of a year, including life in prison and death. Heavy fines, up to $10,000, and probation can be imposed in addition to or in place of prison/jail time. Like misdemeanor offenses, there are wobbler felony crimes, and how it is charged is the difference between serving time in county jail or years in prison. Generally, there are three tiers of possible prison terms for felony offenses. The middle level is the option most often imposed, but the sentence will be higher if there are aggravating circumstances, or lower if mitigating facts are present. Felony probation may be imposed in place of jail or prison time, involves intense supervision by design, and usually lasts three years, though it can be extended to five years. Violations of probation conditions open an offender to resentencing for the maximum jail/prison time permitted by law. Some of conditions felony probation commonly includes are:
- monthly meetings with a probation officer;
- paying restitution;
- drug testing, if a drug crime occurred;
- community service; and/or
- unannounced searches of a person or property with or without a warrant.
Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal charges are not an issue you want to face alone. The consequences can be severe and follow you for the rest of your life. If you live in the Los Angeles area, and were arrested or charged with a crime, the Manshoory Law Group, APC is ready to take your case. We understand the law for both federal and state crimes and will fight to get the best possible result. Attorneys are available 24/7 to offer a free consultation. Contact our firm today.