Criminal Charges in California
If you have been arrested and face criminal charges in California, you should understand the basics of the law. There are three types of criminal charges in California: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
Infractions are the least serious offenses, which include minor violations such as traffic violations. Typically, the punishment for an infraction is a fine. In general, as long as you pay the fine, you will not go to jail.
Misdemeanor offenses are more serious than infractions. A misdemeanor can result in a maximum punishment of either six months or one year in a county jail, or a maximum of a $1,000 fine for most (but not all) misdemeanors.
Some examples of misdemeanor crimes could include:
- DUI / drunk driving charges
- petty theft
- driving with a suspended license
Felonies are the most serious crimes. The punishment for a felony is typically at minimum a year in jail, and convicted felons are usually sent to state prison for sentences of 16 months or more. In some states, the sentence for committing the most serious type of felony could be the death penalty.
If you have been charged with a felony in California, you need an experienced and motivated criminal defense attorney to represent you. As the founder of McCready Law Group, I’m ready to defend those who face felony charges such as:
- drug crimes (such as possession of controlled substances)
It’s also important to know that some crimes in California may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Those crimes may include:
- domestic violence
- assault and battery
- other criminal activity
California Criminal Court Process
After an arrest, there are several steps that a defendant must go through in the California Criminal Court. The arresting officer will write a report and then the prosecutor will decide whether to file charges, which they must do within 48 hours of the arrest when the defendant is in jail.
After charges are filed, there is an arraignment where the judge will tell the defendant the charges, their constitutional rights, and the fact that the court will appoint a lawyer free of charge. At the arraignment, you must enter a plea of either not guilty, guilty, or no contest.
Once the plea has been entered, there may or may not be a trial, which will look different depending on your case. You may have either a jury trial or a court trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney can navigate you through the process of either type of trial.
After the trial, you will receive a verdict that outlines your punishment. It is also possible to appeal your case. Again, an experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through the appeal process, which can be complex in the California court system.
Personalized Defense When You Need It
It’s important that your rights are protected throughout the criminal court process. However, you need to make sure you receive an aggressive legal strategy that is suited to your unique case.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can review the details of your situation and seek to change a felony offense to a misdemeanor offense. They can present evidence and witnesses at your trial to your advantage—if your case goes to trial. Ultimately, no one deserves to have to go through the criminal justice system alone. That’s where skilled, compassionate counsel becomes your greatest asset.