Committing a crime in California can lead to serious consequences in many cases. Knowing the classification of the crime can help you indicate what degree of punishment you can expect if found guilty of that crime.
Classifying Crimes in California
There are three classifications of crimes according to California law. These classifications are:
- Infractions, the least serious of offenses and is often called a "petty offense"
- Misdemeanors, offenses deemed more serious than infractions but less serious than felonies, and
- Felonies, the most serious of offenses.
In California, there are what is known as wobblers. Wobblers are not a classification but refer to offenses that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances and facts of each case.
Infractions are minor violations of California law, like a violation of a city code or a traffic rule. Examples of infraction include:
- Failure to stop at a traffic light
- Failure to wear a seatbelt
A penalty for an infraction is usually only a fine. California does not punish infractions with jail or probation. If you commit an infraction, it will not appear on a criminal record.
Misdemeanors are violations of the California criminal code. Examples of misdemeanors include:
- First-time DUI offense
- Some possession of controlled substances offenses
- Some domestic violence offense
- Simple assault.
A misdemeanor is a crime that -- if convicted of it -- will leave you with a criminal record. Penalties include the possibility of
- Incarceration at the county jail for up to one year
- A fine up to $1000
- Community service
- Restitution for the victim, and/or
Felonies are violations of the California criminal code. Examples of felonies include:
- Violent crimes, like aggravated assault, burglary, or homicide
- Drug crimes, like possession of controlled or illegal substances to distribute or with the intent to do so
- White collar crimes, like larceny, embezzlement, identity theft.
A felony -- if convicted -- will leave you with more than a criminal record: you could find some of your constitutional rights taken from you, like the right to vote and the right to own and use firearms. Penalties can range from just about anything and can include incarceration for more than one year at a prison (with some exceptions allowing offenders to carry out their sentence at the county jail), serious fines that can be in the thousands of dollars range, probation after incarceration, and other potential penalties.
Defending Yourself against an Allegation of Committing a Crime in L.A. County
Being charged with a crime in California can be serious, especially if a misdemeanor or felony offense. Finding an experienced, resourceful criminal defense lawyer can mean the difference between spending a year or more in jail and paying hefty fines or keeping your record clean and getting your life back. Criminal defense is not just about "I didn't do it." That said, it isn't just about the police saying: "You did do it." The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. Each crime, whether a misdemeanor or felony, has a set of elements that must be proven. If one element goes unproven, then that may be the thing that keeps you free.
William Kroger, a criminal defense lawyer with a local office in Beverly Hills, California, understands the law and understands the importance of proving your innocence or ensuring you get a second chance. He has the skill and resources to help you, no matter how complex your case may be and no matter how bad you think the odds are against you.
And if you have already been convicted and served your so-called debt to society, then you may qualify for expungement. Expungement means the crime qualifying for expungement will be sealed and destroyed to the effect it never existed. You can claim on employment applications that you have never been convicted of a crime. Contact William S. Kroger today to learn more about what your options are and to get started on your defense.