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Los Angeles Felony Defense Attorney
How Does a Felony Differ from a Misdemeanor?
In the state of California, and throughout the rest of the United States, a felony is any crime that is punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison. All other crimes or public offenses are treated as misdemeanors, which carry a maximum of one year in county jail. Furthermore, most felony convictions will result in collateral consequences like the loss of your professional license, the loss of your right to own firearms, loss of employment and the inability to hold office or serve as a juror.
In California, certain felonies must be served in county jail if it is so specified in the new sentencing program, the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011.
Serious Charges Require a Serious Defense
If you have been charged with a felony offense in California, it is important to understand what you are up against. At best, you may receive formal probation with little to no jail time; however, in the worst case scenario, the consequences may include a lifetime behind bars in state prison. You could also lose your professional license, your job and your right to own a firearm. If you are not a citizen of the United States, you could also face deportation. For this reason, you will need an aggressive defense.
The Los Angeles criminal lawyers at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners have been defending the rights of criminally accused clients for more than 70 years combined. When you work with us, we will stand by you throughout every step of the process, thoroughly review the evidence against you, and do everything in our power to secure a favorable resolution on your behalf. We know just how damaging a felony conviction can be, so you can trust that we will work diligently to protect your freedom.
Types of Felony Offenses in California
While most felonies include some element of violence, you do not necessarily have to commit a violent crime in order to be charged with a felony. For example, you could be charged with a felony if you are arrested for shoplifting and you have a prior conviction on your record. Shoplifting would otherwise be charged as a misdemeanor.
Some of the most common felonies in California include:
- White collar crimes – bribery, fraud, forgery, perjury, embezzlement, etc.
- Drug crimes –possession, sales, manufacturing, distribution, etc.
- Sex crimes –sexual abuse, sexual assault, possession of child porn, etc.
- Violent crimes –murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, arson, mayhem, etc.
- Theft crimes – burglary, armed robbery, grand theft, carjacking, etc.
How the "Three Strikes Law" Can Affect Sentencing
Being convicted of a felony offense anywhere in the United States can result in harsh penalties; however, California's three strikes law can make a felony conviction particularly devastating. This law, which is commonly referred to as the "three strikes and you're out" law, requires repeat felony offenders to serve increasingly severe sentences with each subsequent offense. In fact, someone who is convicted of their third serious or violent felony will automatically face 25 years to life.
- If you already have one strike on your record and you are convicted of another serious felony in the state, you will automatically face a doubled prison sentence and triple the amount of time in actual custody—due to the law's reduction of good behavior credit.
- If you already have two strikes on your record and you are convicted of a third felony in the state (even if it is not considered a strike), the "three strikes law" will come into full effect—meaning that you will automatically be required to serve 25 years to life in prison.
Under California Penal Code § 666, someone who has previously been convicted of three theft offenses could face felony penalties if they commit another theft-related crime. This means that a "two strikes" defendant who has been charged with a new misdemeanor shoplifting offense could have their charges upgraded to a felony—and, thus, face 25 years to life in prison under the three strikes law.
Determinate & Indeterminate Sentencing in Felony Cases
If you are convicted of a felony offense in the state of California, you could either face a determinate sentence or an indeterminate sentence—the difference being that a determinate sentence is a set term of imprisonment and an indeterminate sentence is a variable term, such as a term of life in prison. However, most felonies are punishable under the determinate sentencing laws in California. This means that the judge can impose one of three prison terms: a low, middle or high term of imprisonment.
For example, robbery is punishable by a low term of two years, a middle term of four years and a high term of six years. The judge will usually impose a middle-of-the-road sentence, but their decision will be influenced by several different factors—including their own discretion, the seriousness of the crime, the defendant's criminal record and other mitigating and aggravating factors. Indeterminate sentencing is reserved for particularly serious felonies like murder, kidnapping, rape and aggravated mayhem.
Why are some crimes called "wobblers" in California?
In California, there are a number of different crimes that are considered to be "wobblers"—meaning that they could either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. When expungement or sentencing hangs in the balance over the status of a wobbler, it is imperative that you enlist the help of an experienced criminal attorney in Los Angeles, CA. When Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners is on your case, we may be able to tip the scales of justice in favor of a misdemeanor to potentially minimize your penalties.
Some of the most common wobblers in California include:
What Does Arraignment Mean in Court for a Felony?
An arraignment in court for a felony is a formal court proceeding where the defendant is brought before a judge to hear the charges against them and enter a plea (usually guilty or not guilty).
During the arraignment, the defendant is informed of their rights, including the right to an attorney, and the consequences of the charges they are facing. They may also be informed of the evidence that the prosecution has against them.
The defendant will be asked to enter a plea to the charges against them.
- If they plead guilty, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a later date.
- If they plead not guilty, a trial date will be set.
The arraignment is a crucial step in the legal process for a felony charge because it sets the tone for the rest of the case and can affect the defendant's chances of a fair trial.
Can You Go to Jail at a Felony Arraignment?
It is unlikely that a defendant would be sentenced to jail during an arraignment. An arraignment is a preliminary hearing where the defendant is formally charged and enters a plea. It is not a trial and does not typically involve the presentation of evidence or witness testimony.
However, in some rare cases, a judge may order a defendant to be detained pending trial if they pose a flight risk or a danger to the community. This is known as pretrial detention. In such cases, the defendant may be taken into custody at the arraignment and held in jail until the trial. But this is not the norm and generally, an arraignment does not result in an immediate sentence or jail time.
Don't Let a Felony Conviction Ruin Your Life
Even if you face the lightest possible sentencing for a felony conviction, this permanent mark on your criminal record could still have lasting consequences. Not only could it limit your housing and employment opportunities, but it could put a strain on your personal relationships and quality of life. For this reason, you shouldn't wait any longer to retain the help of a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners if you or someone you love has been arrested for a felony crime.
In 2003, 68% of the adults who were arrested in the state were convicted of their charges. With this number in mind, it is important to remember that choosing the right criminal defense attorney can make all of the difference in the outcome of your case. When you work with our firm, you can rest easier knowing that we are backed by both client satisfaction and a proven record of successful results. Let us put our seven decades of combined legal experience to work for you; contact our firm today!
Arrested for a felony offense in Los Angeles? Get in touch with a skilled defense attorney at our firm by contacting us online.
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