What is a “Misdemeanor”?
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is less serious than a felony and more serious than an infraction. Misdemeanors are generally punishable by a fine and incarceration.
In general, the maximum punishment for a misdemeanor crime is usually a fine and up to one year in county jail. However, when there are multiple misdemeanor charges, the fine can be hefty, and the sentencing can include possibly more than a year in county jail. Often, the District Attorney will charge an individual with multiple counts. These counts can be found on the Charging Docket.
What do my charges mean?
You likely received a ticket or other documentation which lists your charges. It is important to carefully review your charges and understand exactly WHAT you are being charged with. A charge beginning with “PC” is a charge under the California Penal Code, such as battery or domestic violence. A charge beginning with “HS” is a charge under the Health and Safety Code, such as drug possession or under the influence of a controlled substance. Finally, a charge beginning with “VC” is under the Vehicle Code, such as a DUI or DWI.
What are some Misdemeanors in California?
California Criminal Law is a complex area of law. Some Misdemeanors may be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor or would be considered a “wobbler” in the Criminal Law world. Some of the charges that we assist with are the following:
- Driving Under the Influence
- Driving While Intoxicated
- Under the Influence of a controlled substance
- Drunk in Public
- Disorderly Conduct
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Spousal Battery
- And other misdemeanor offenses
What is the Court process when charged with a criminal offense?
In general, there are four major steps that occur in a criminal matter.
First, the Arrest by law enforcement. If you were booked into jail, then the next step for some is contacting a local bail bondsman to bail out of jail. Or, you have the choice to stay in custody. If you are employed or other family obligations, bailing out of jail may be a no brainer for you. However, by remaining in custody you are accumulating “credits” which will be credited as “time served” of any sentence.
Second, the Arraignment. This is often your first appearance. By this point, you will know the charges against you. Your first appearance is one of the most important appearances. This is the first time a Judge will see you in person and is often the first time your lawyer can engage in negotiations with the District Attorney.
Contacting an attorney BEFORE your arraignment may be your best bet. Why? The attorney can collect mitigating evidence to present at the arraignment during negotiations with the District Attorney. If you are charged with a DUI, proof of self-help meetings or entrance into a rehabilitation facility may be powerful. If this is your first offense, proof that you are gainfully employed, excelling in school, and are production member of society may be powerful. This type of documentation is on a “case by case” basis as no one person’s circumstances are the same
Third, Pretrial. Pretrial is just before the case proceeds to Trial. Often, individuals do not get to the Pretrial phase if they received a “deal” from the District Attorney during earlier proceedings. These “deals” can range from pleading to only one count in a multiple count complaint, pleading to a lesser offense than pleaded in the complaint, and/or pleading to an offense with a stipulation to complete programs or self-help classes. Again, all cases are different, and “deals” are given on a “case by case” basis.
Fourth, the Trial. Before Trial (the daunting fourth step in the process), obtaining Discovery is one of the most important aspects of your case. What is Discovery? Discovery is obtaining the police reports and other statements/reports prepared by law enforcement. This gives lawyers a glimpse of the evidence against a client.
Fourth, the Trial. More than 90% of cases do not make it to Trial. Pursuing a case to Trial is a strategic decision that needs to be well thought out by the client and his/her legal representation.
When should I contact an attorney?
This is a personal decision. We have had client’s contact our office as they were walking out of County Jail. We have also had client’s contact us prior to the Arraignment. Some client’s try and wade through the system by themselves then find they are overwhelmed by the process. That is normal!
Or some may receive their police report and have doubts that they are guilty of the crimes charged but are unsure how to go about relaying this to the Court. Police Reports are one of the most important parts of the criminal process and likely requires a trained legal professional to decipher these sometimes-confusing reports. The main thing to look for in a police report or other statement from law enforcement is for evidence! Yes, there needs to be sufficient evidence to convict an individual the charged crime. Crimes often have elements, or components, that need to be shown to convict. For example, to be convicted of a DUI if you are over the age of 21 requires a specific blood alcohol level.
What can we do to help you?
We are here for you during your tough time. We understand that sometimes good people make poor decisions. This does not mean the person is a “bad person”, it is just a lapse in Judgment. The good news- we can help you wade through the process. There may be tears, sleepless night, and long mornings, but the good news is that we are here to walk the client through the process step-by-step.