CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS IN SACRAMENTO
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INFRACTIONS, MISDEMEANORS & FELONIES
Whether you are being convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, it’s important you contact criminal defense lawyers in Sacramento for legal representation immediately. There is a difference between the different conviction types and it’s important you understand each of them.
Infractions are the most minor type of public offense that can be considered to not even be a crime. There is no prison sentence or probation for any infraction, though they may be subject to a maximum of a $250 fine. It may also result in the removal or disqualification from public office but usually only results in a fine. The most common infractions are:
- Unsafe left or u-turn.
- Parking violations
- Running stop lights
Individuals charged with an infraction typically do not have the right to trial by jury as misdemeanor defendants may. Infraction defenders also don’t have the right to court-appointed counsel. Infraction trials also may be heard by non-judges, such as magistrates.
Some infractions are considered wobblers, which means the prosecutor can decide to file the charge as an infraction or as a misdemeanor. In these situations, it’s always a good idea to speak to criminal defense lawyers in Sacramento.
The prosecutor will make this decision based on:
- The specific circumstances of the current case
- The criminal history of the defendant
Examples of wobblers include disturbing the peace, participating in a car race, etc.
Misdemeanors are crimes that can be punishable by imprisonment in county or city jail or a detention facility for up to one year. Typically, individuals are sentenced to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1000. However, many misdemeanors have a preset punishment that exceeds this basic sentence, such as batter on a peace officer. Examples of misdemeanors include:
- Petty theft
- Driving on a suspended license
- Drunk driving
A felony is the most serious category of crime. Felonies can be punishable by death or life imprisonment in a state facility. Alternatively, an individual who is convicted of a felony may be granted probation instead of a prison sentence at all. The court may impose many conditions associated with that probation, such as a year of jail time, fines, etc. Individuals convicted of a felony are usually required to spend at least a year in state prison.
Examples of felonies include:
Misdemeanor and Felony Case Proceedings
Infractions usually require a defendant to pay a fine and that’s all. Misdemeanor and felony charges are different in that they are more complicated and may result in court proceedings. Make sure to contact criminal defense lawyers in Sacramento if you are convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.Typically, the process is as follows:
The police officer arrests the defendant and brings him or her to jail. The following then may occur:
- the defendant is released with no charges filed against them
- the defendant posts bond or is released on his or her “own recognizance” (i.e. there is no bail). In these cases, the authorities tell the defendant when to appear in court for arraignment (described below)
- or the defendant stays in jail. Law enforcement officers will transport the defendant to court for the arraignment.
This is the first time the defendant goes to court. At this point, the judge tells the defendant the following:
- What the charges are
- The constitutional rights of the defendant
- That a lawyer may be appointed to the defendant if he or she cannot afford one.
At this point, the defendant may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest (also known as “Nolo Contendere”)
- Not guilty means the defendant claims to be innocent
- Guilty means the defendant admits to the crime.
- No contest or Nolo Contendere means the defendant does not disagree outright with the charge. This is similar to a guilty plea, but the conviction cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit.
- The judge may allow the defendant out of jail on his or her “own recognizance,” or may set bail.
The preliminary hearing is when the judge decides if there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to go to trial. If the judge decides there is enough evidence, the prosecutor will file a document called the “Information.” There will then be an arraignment to present the information to the defendant, and the defendant may enter a plea.
The prosecutor must file the Information within 15 days of the preliminary hearing. The trial must begin within 60 days of the arraignment of the Information, unless the defendant waives the right to a speedy trial and thus extends this deadline. The prosecutors and defending attorneys must choose a jury before the trial. Witnesses may testify during trial and there is a presentation of evidence by lawyers. After all the lawyers exhaust their witnesses and finish their arguments, the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
- A not guilty verdict results in the release of the defendant. They can never be tried for that exact crime again.
- A guilty verdict continues the case for sentencing, which may occur immediately or at a later date.
- The defendant may appeal to the District Court of Appeals if they don’t agree with the verdict.
Sometimes a defendant will agree to a court trial instead of a jury trial. This means the judge hears the evidence and arguments instead of a jury and decides if the defendant is guilty or not.
Obviously court proceedings are very complicated. It is important to hire a knowledgeable and motivated criminal defense lawyers in Sacramento for your case in order to get the best defense possible. Your life may depend on it!
Speak to Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers in Sacramento For Any Misdemeanor or Felony Convictions
Getting arrested for a criminal charge can alter your life in many ways. A misdemeanor or a felony conviction can have serious consequences on your employment, your future and your family. Call us to speak to one of our criminal defense lawyers in Sacramento at (916) 441-4888.