What Types of Criminal Offenses Can I Be Charged with?

Under California law, you can be charged with one of three different types of offenses depending on your crime. Remember, however, that it is important get in touch with a San Diego criminal defense attorney, no matter what type of charges are filed in your case. Even certain traffic infractions can have serious consequences for your ability to operate a motor vehicle in the future.

You may be charged with an infraction, which is the most minor violation or offense. Examples of infraction are most traffic violations, like speeding, or distracted driving. If you have been charged with an infraction, you can expect a fine, but in most cases, there is no jail time.

You may be charged with a misdemeanor, for crimes like petty theft, driving with a suspended license, or driving under the influence of alcohol. For these crimes, you could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of between six months and a year in county jail. You might also have to pay up to $1,000 in fines. Call a San Diego criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanors are less serious than felony offenses, but it is important to get in touch with a San Diego criminal defense lawyer as soon as you are charged with one. Remember, there may be other consequences of a misdemeanor apart from prison or jail time that you may not have considered. For instance, misdemeanor convictions can definitely interfere with your employability, your prospects of getting admission into a good college, your ability to rent an apartment of your choice, and other consequences.

Felony charges are the most serious charges allowed under California law. In the case of a conviction, penalties will typically involve jail or prison time. Examples of felony crimes include rape and murder. Some felonies are considered “strikes” under California’s three strikes law, which means you could face more severe consequences if you are ever convicted of another felony crime.

The California Three Strikes Law

California’s three strikes law is an aspect of sentencing that increases significantly the increases the prison sentences of specified repeat offenders who are convicted felons. According to the statute, the three strikes law was created to “ensure longer prison sentences and greater punishment for those who commit a felony and have been previously convicted of serious and/or violent felony offenses.” California’s law targets both “second” strikers as well as “third” strikers. Under California’s three strikes law, if an individual is a convicted felon, and has two or more priors (prior convictions for strike offenses), he or she has to be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in a state prison. On the other hand, if a person is convicted of any felony and already has a “strike” on their record, that person’s sentence must be double the prison sentence for the current crime.

Prison inmates in California can earn “custody credits” for good behavior. With these credits, an inmate can serve only half of their sentence, but a three strikes violation will diminish this privilege. For those on their second strike, they have to serve at least 80% of their prison term prior to release eligibility. This increases to 85% if the conviction is for a violent felony. However, third strikers do not receive any custody credits.

In addition, the three strikes law also requires strike sentences for various charges that are tried in the same session be served at the same time, with no term limits, as long as the offenses did not stem from the same incident. This diminishes any possibility of probation or the opportunity to serve their sentence in a rehab-oriented facility.

According to Attorney John Murray, “Given the grave consequences that can befall a defendant in a “strike” case, at least the accused can take comfort that the prosecutor must prove each and every strike allegation – just as the prosecutor must prove the current charges. This means that the defendant is presumed innocent of the “strike allegations” unless and until the prosecutor proves them beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the accused is acquitted of the new felony charges, the strike allegations get set aside. But if he or she is convicted, then the jury will determine if the strike allegations are true. If it is determined by the jury that the defendant is guilty, the law is specifically enforced.

A prior conviction counts as a strike if it was for a serious or violent felony as defined in the California Penal Code. Serious felonies are listed in California Penal Code Section 1192.7(c), and violent felonies are listed in California Penal Code Section 667.5(c). Most felonies involving violence are on the list. These include specific crimes, like murder and mayhem and rape. They also include generalized criminal conduct offenses like felonies in which the defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim, felonies where a “California gang enhancement” is sustained, and felonies is which defendant personally used a firearm.

Fortunately, there is some sense of a positive outlook available. It can be decided by the court to disregard strikes in “furtherance of justice.” Up until trial, prosecutors have the opportunity bring up strikes, while judges can dismiss strike allegations up until sentencing. The defense attorney can also ask that the court “strike a strike” by filing a Romero motion. When determining if a Romero Motion is applicable, the court will analyze a variety of factors including any prior convictions, the circumstances surrounding the charges, and much more.

When someone is subject to a strike case, consult a San Diego defense lawyer to help you immediately.

This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please call or fill out the form above for a free consultation.

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