Being charged with a crime brings a lot of issues to the forefront. First and foremost, is understanding what the charges are, and the realization of how much potential prison time, or financial penalty, is at play. Regardless of the potential jail or prison time, criminal charges should be challenged, and retaining the services of an attorney experienced in criminal defense can be crucial to minimizing the possible penalties from a charge. Recently, the issue of financial penalties facing criminal defendants was before a California court, which ruled that California law, by assigning financial penalties without regard to the ability of the defendant to pay, violates the civil rights of defendants who are unable to pay. The conclusion was based upon the fact that it puts them in a worse situation than defendants who are able to pay, effectively punishing them for being poor. A discussion of the various penalties in California will be discussed below.
Under California law, after a defendant either enters a guilty plea or is convicted of at least one charge, the judge imposes a sentence. However, before imposing a sentence, the parties have an opportunity to persuade the judge of an appropriate penalty in a sentencing hearing. Generally, misdemeanors require a sentencing hearing be held between six hours and five days after the defendant enters a guilty plea or is convicted. For felonies, the sentencing hearing must be scheduled within 20 days.
In California, the potential sentences work differently than in other States. Rather than categorizing offenses by degree or class, in California, offenses – and penalties – are categorized as either infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. Further, in California, penalties are primarily set for each individual offense rather than for entire categories of crimes.
Generally, infractions are minor offenses of the law, which are typically punished only with a fine. Further, in some cases, such as possession of a specific quantity of cannabis or moving violations, the fine may be relatively small, and will not even show up on an individual’s criminal record.
Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions, but are still relatively minor. Misdemeanor offenses are punishable by a jail sentence of no more than one year. Further, in many cases, a fine is often part of a misdemeanor sentence.
Felonies are the most serious crimes, and carry a potential prison sentence greater than one year in a State prison (as opposed to misdemeanors, in which case incarceration is in a county or municipal jail). The prison sentence for felonies are separated into low-term, mid-term, and high-term, dependent upon the material facts of the crime, as well as the prior criminal history of the convicted individuals. Serious felonies, such as homicide, may even be punishable by death.
Finally, California law also includes offenses which are known as wobblers. Wobbler offenses are those offenses that can be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the determination of the prosecutor. As such, the penalty for a wobbler offense depends on whether the conviction is a misdemeanor or a felony.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. It is imperative to not hesitate in contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney, and the attorneys at our office have the knowledge and experience in California criminal law to help your case. We will work with you to provide the most effective defense possible, including, if necessary, mitigating any financial penalties that could be imposed against you by persuading the judge of your unfortunate financial issues. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact the Los Angeles law firm today for an initial consultation.