A felony in California is defined as a crime punishable by death, imprisonment in state prison, or incarceration in county jail for certain lower-level offenses. Other less serious violations in California are classified as misdemeanors, which are punished by penalties and/or up to 364 days in county prison, or infractions, which are solely punishable by fines.
To learn more about the potential consequences being convicted of either crime, keep reading. Then contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 to request a free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
How do courts determine a felony’s sentence?
In California, the law establishes three predetermined (or fixed) sentences for the majority of offenses. If the legislation does not provide otherwise, the possibilities are 16 months, two years, or three years.
Unless the law allows for an alternative such as a fine, probation, or obligatory monitoring for part of the term, the judge must pick one of those specified durations of jail as the base punishment during the sentencing hearing after a conviction. The judge may consider evidence of mitigating or aggravating circumstances while selecting among the available terms (including victim statements). Some offenders will have to serve additional time based on the nature of their offenses and their criminal histories, in addition to the standard term for each felony conviction.
While most felony sentences are for a set period of time, California law allows for “indeterminate” punishments (ranging from 25 years to life) in a select cases, including murder convictions.
California’s “Realignment”: County Jail or State Prison
California’s “Public Safety Realignment Act” requires felons to serve their sentences in county jail rather than state prison unless they have been convicted of serious or violent felonies, either recently or previously, they must register as sex offenders, or their current convictions include a sentencing enhancement for aggravated white collar crime.
Murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, robbery, carjacking, and any felony involving the use of a firearms are examples of major or violent felonies.
Reducing felonies to misdemeanors and wobblers
Many crimes in California are “wobblers,” meaning they can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. Most instances of sexual battery, for example, entail a punishment of up to 364 days in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,000 if convicted of a misdemeanor, or two, three, or four years in prison with a maximum fine of $10,000 if convicted of a felony.
In addition, some offenses, such as breaking a domestic violence protection order, are misdemeanors on their face but can be regarded as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances, such as the offenders’ past convictions.
If you are in need of help from an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 to learn more about how we can assist you.