In California, crimes are classified as either an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony. If guilty of an infraction, you often are only required to pay a fine and face no other penalties. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, jail time becomes a possibility but typically you would face no more than 1 year in county jail. As the most serious type of crime, felonies carry severe penalties that may impact you for the rest of your life.
A felony conviction will often find you paying high fines but you also face a state prison sentence. In the most extreme felony crimes, you could be in jail for life without the possibility of parole, or face the death penalty.
However, there are some crimes which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
California law charges some felony crimes as “straight” felonies, meaning they can only be charged and sentenced as a felony. The most serious California crimes are considered straight felonies and will also count as a “strike” on your criminal record in accordance with California’s Three Strikes Law.
Examples of straight felonies in California include:
- Murder (Penal Code 187),
- Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence (Penal Code 192(c)),
- Rape (Penal Code 261)
- Lewd acts with a child under 14 (Penal Code 288)
- Carjacking (Penal Code 215)
- First-degree burglary (Penal Code 461(1)
- Robbery (Penal Code 211)
Straight felonies cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. If you have been accused of a straight felony crime, you need to speak with a criminal defense attorney who may advise you in your case. They will seek to reduce the maximum penalties you may face or argue a plea deal on your behalf.
There are crimes in California which can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Known as a “wobbler” offense, the District Attorney is given the discretion on whether or not to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or felony. Often, the District Attorney makes this determination based off the facts and circumstances around the commission of the offense and the defendant’s past criminal record.
Examples of a wobbler offense in California include:
- Vehicular manslaughter (Penal Code 192(c)(1))
- Unlawful sexual intercourse/statutory rape (Penal Code 261.5)
- Assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm (Penal Code 245(a)(1))
- Domestic violence (Penal Code 273.5)
- Forgery (Penal Code 470)
A defendant who has previous criminal convictions on their criminal record or who committed the crime in a particularly aggressive, violent, or extreme manner may be charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor if the offense is a wobbler.
Additionally, if a defendant has a prior conviction of the same offense or other felony convictions, they may risk being charged with a felony for the current offense that would have been charged as a misdemeanor for a person with no prior or similar convictions.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 35 years of experience successfully reducing our clients’ criminal charges to a lesser offense. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.