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In California, criminal offenses are classified as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. Infractions, such as traffic violations, are the least serious and are punishable by a fine or community service, but no jail time. Infractions will not appear on your criminal record.

A conviction for a misdemeanor, however, is considered more serious than infractions but less serious than felonies and will remain on your permanent record and carry consequences that can seriously impact your future. Misdemeanors carry a punishment of less than 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felonies are the most serious of all, resulting in possible prison time from 16 months to life, and even punishment by death.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, involve a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney from Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners as soon as possible. We have a successful track record of defending clients against misdemeanors as well as felony charges and will gladly sit down with you, thoroughly discuss the evidence against you and recommend your next steps to achieve the best possible results in your case.

Understanding Misdemeanor Charges and Consequences

Misdemeanors are usually charged by a written complaint. Typically the complaint is filed with the court shortly before or on the day of the defendant's first court appearance (the "Arraignment"). While misdemeanor charges may be considered minor, being accused and/or convicted can have devastating lifelong effects. Numerous crimes are commonly charged as misdemeanors, such as disorderly conduct, trespassing, and vandalism with penalties that can include up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, probation and others.

In limited cases, offenses can be reduced to infractions but elevating to felonies is more typical. These cases are called "wobblers." The seriousness of the crime, injuries to the victim and the defendant's prior record are all factors that prosecutors use to determine what charge they will file.

Examples of wobbler offenses include:

Arraignment Process for Misdemeanor Offenses in LA

In California, a misdemeanor arraignment is usually held within 48 hours of arrest. At an arraignment, the judge will read the criminal charges and ask how you would like to plead. Your plea can be guilty, not guilty, or no contest (nolo contendre).

A plea of guilty or no contest results in a conviction; however, in some cases you may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or punishment. If you plead not guilty, the court will set a date for your trial.

You should speak with an attorney before entering any plea and prior to attending a misdemeanor arraignment in California. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help protect your rights by making sure that all paperwork is filed correctly and that you understand the process. An attorney can also negotiate with the prosecution for a dismissal or reduced charges, as well as explain any potential consequences of pleading guilty or no contest. Depending on your charges, it may be beneficial to have an attorney represent you in court at your arraignment and throughout the criminal justice process.

It’s imperative to remember that whatever plea you enter at your arraignment, you cannot change it later. So if you plead not guilty but then decide after further investigation that guilt is the best option for you, you will need to withdraw that plea and re-enter it at a later hearing. This is another reason why consulting with a lawyer before attending an arraignment in California can be beneficial—a skilled attorney can help ensure that all paperwork is filed correctly and that you understand the process.

Penalties and Sentencing for Misdemeanor Convictions

If a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor, either by a plea or a jury trial, the court can impose probation (informal) with or without jail time, community service, physical labor, counseling, restitution (monetary payment to the victim), fines ($200 to $2,000), and "stay-away" orders. A misdemeanor conviction also results in the person having a permanent criminal record.

Get Legal Help from a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Team

While misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies, they can have far-reaching consequences for your future. A misdemeanor conviction can impact your ability to obtain a professional license, rent an apartment, obtain a loan, and seriously limit your employment possibilities.

For instance, some companies simply will not hire anyone with a criminal record, no matter how insignificant. Do not face your misdemeanor charges alone! With our proven record of success in over 70 years of collective legal practice, we are the firm you need for your best likelihood of reducing your chances of going to jail, and in some cases getting your misdemeanor charge dropped to an infraction or dismissed altogether.

Ready to Defend Your Future? Contact Our LA Criminal Defense Attorneys Today.

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