Criminal conduct in California is punished with permanent loss of freedoms or temporary punishments, hefty or smaller fines, and long or short jail terms. Many people accused of crimes find it challenging to differentiate a misdemeanor from a felony.
Understanding the nature of the case you are dealing with can help you prepare more adequately. Do not hesitate to channel all your questions to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Orange County. Knowing more allows you to get more involved in the entire process.
What Differentiates a Felony from a Misdemeanor in California?
The key differentiating factors of the two categories are:
- The severity of the damage done to the victim
- Whether or not a weapon was used
- The accused’s criminal record
- If any aggravation was involved
Misdemeanors attract jail terms of a year or less in county jail, and the fine cannot exceed $1,000. Unlike other states, California’s criminal law does not give the traditional letter classification. However, the misdemeanors vary in degree, and the guidelines on classification are provided in the penal code. Notably, aggravating factors can escalate a misdemeanor into a felony.
Felony offenses get nothing less than a year in state prison. On the higher side, convicts can receive capital punishments or life imprisonment. Moreover, California doesn’t use fixed ranges of penalties like many other states. Instead, it utilizes a system of high, mid, and low-term sentences chosen on a case-by-case basis.
Does the Three Strikes Law Apply in Both Felonies and Misdemeanors?
Defendants can receive a strike on their criminal records if convicted of a serious or violent crime. Should they commit a similar crime for the second time, the sentence will double up. What’s more, they will not be eligible for release until they have served at least 80% of the period.
If a serious or violent crime is committed a third time, the convict might not be eligible for release, and the jail term will be between 25 years and life imprisonment. The best way to avoid California’s three-strikes sentencing law is to utilize the skills of an Orange County criminal defense lawyer throughout the process.
Is Domestic Violence a Felony or Misdemeanor?
Judges use Penal Code 273.5 to determine whether a domestic violence offense is a felony or a misdemeanor. Knowing the classifications is critical in understanding the charges one could be facing in California.
Domestic Violence as a Misdemeanor
A spousal battery charge involves the use of deliberate force on a spouse or a cohabitant. The victim can file this charge against you even without visible injuries. You may receive:
- Prison term of up to 12 months
- Fines of up to $2,000
Domestic Violence as a Felony
Spousal corporal injury charge applies when the wound or injury is apparent. Even light bruising can fall into the category of a felony in California. The penalty could be:
- Mandatory domestic violence class
- Jail term of four years or more, depending on the intensity of the injuries
- A fine of $10,000 if you have a history of attempted sexual assault or assault, or if a weapon was used in the violence
Are Criminal Threats a Felony or Misdemeanor in California?
Telling another person that you will kill or harm them can be convicted either as a misdemeanor or felony. The role of an Orange County felony defense attorney is to convince the court that the offense they are convicting you for is minor and deserves a lesser penalty.
Criminal Threats Misdemeanor
Threats that aren’t serious enough to be considered violent crimes come with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 364 days in jail.
Criminal Threats Felony
Serious criminal threat charges are punished with fines amounting to $10,000 and three years of imprisonment. But since the offense is a “strike,” a second offense receives twice the initial sentence. The third time comes with 25 years on the lower side and life imprisonment on the higher side.
What Differentiates Misdemeanor Theft and Felony Theft Charges?
Offenses that involve intentionally taking someone’s possession in California range from theft by deception; petty theft; robbery/larceny; shoplifting; grand theft, and grand theft auto. The decision on whether to charge theft as a misdemeanor and felony is informed by several factors.
Value of the Stolen Property
The crime is likely to be a felony if the property’s value is at or exceeds $1,000. Misdemeanor theft is usually property below $1,000. Thefts that are felonies regardless of the value include, theft:
- Of a domestic animal
- Of firearms
- On property destroyed by a natural disaster
- On people living with disabilities
- On a hospital patient
- On a corpse
- On vulnerable adults
The Type of Theft
Theft crimes like shoplifting and petty theft automatically fall under misdemeanors. Armed robbery theft, robbery, theft by swindle, and grand theft auto are all felonies. Grand theft is a wobbler whose classification depends on the value of the property involved.
Prior Theft Convictions
Previous theft convictions can impact future sentencing in California. The judge can bump up one bracket of your charges if you have had one theft conviction before. If they are two or more, they might be bumped up to two brackets.
In case the bumped-up charges happened within five years, the current theft will be a felony – even if the charges were misdemeanors of whichever value. Consider asking a Laguna Hills felony attorney about your case’s possibilities.
Award-Winning Attorneys Offering Skilled Representation
A lot of people wait until later to hire an attorney. However, working with an attorney from the start can give you advantages like case dismissal. What’s more, the skilled criminal defense attorney near you can convince the prosecution to bring charges as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Thus, less severe penalties.
The court process is usually complicated, but SoCal Law Network has a team of experienced attorneys to represent you in Laguna Hills and anywhere in Orange County. We are aggressive criminal justice attorneys in Southern California and we will handle all aspects of your case with care to ensure the protection of your rights. Dial (949) 234-7688 for a FREE case evaluation.