What Is The Difference Between A Misdemeanor And Felony Charge In California?

How Different Criminal Charges In California Are Handled Legally

Every Criminal Defense Lawyer in California will tell you that criminal charges are penalized based on their established severity. After all, not all crimes hold the same weight, victims, or consequences. This is why you might hear crimes categorized as either "misdemeanors" or "felonies", where each differs in several ways.


So, how are these differences applied in California law? Here's a quick guide on that:


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Misdemeanor Crimes in California


A misdemeanor in California is defined as a crime with a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and one year in county prison. Standard and aggravated misdemeanors are the two different levels of misdemeanor charges. Therefore, the penalties for these two various crimes vary.


Ordinarily, standard offenses carry a maximum sentence of six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. These sanctions do not include fines or evaluations of the alleged offender. Petty theft, lewd conduct, and trespassing are commonly prosecuted as standard misdemeanors.


The maximum sentence for aggravated or egregious offenses is 364 days in county prison and a $1,000 fine. However, sometimes the misdemeanor sentence is stated as up to a year in county jail. Driving while intoxicated under California Vehicle Code 23152 and domestic abuse under California Penal Code 243(e)(1) are two common examples of aggravated misdemeanor offenses.


Please be aware that if the defendant has a past conviction for the same crime, misdemeanors may be penalized as felonies. This affects convictions under California Penal Code 241, 242, 243, 490, and 244.5.


If you have any inquiries about California misdemeanor charges, consult a Criminal Defense Attorney in California.


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Felony Crimes in California

By California law, felonies are offenses that may result in a term of up to one year in jail or prison. That said, felonies have two different categories that can affect how they're handled in court and by Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys.


In California, there are two different kinds of felonies. Both wobbler crimes and straight felonies fall under this category. Let's examine these two categories of felonies in more detail:

Straight Felonies


Straight felonies are crimes that can only be punished as felonies and cannot be downgraded to lesser offenses. In California, the most serious crimes are prosecuted as straight felonies. These include offenses considered "strikes" under the three-strike legislation in California.


The following are some instances of straight felonies:

  • Lewd acts with a minor under 14

  • Murder

  • Rape

  • Sale of banned substances

  • Vehicle manslaughter

Wobbler Felonies

According to the prosecution's discretion, some crimes in California may be prosecuted as felonies or misdemeanors. Wobbler Crimes are the name given to these kinds of crimes. The circumstances of the case and the defendant's prior criminal history are typically taken into account by the prosecution when deciding whether to charge a wobbler as a felony or misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor conviction has a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. In contrast, a felony conviction carries a maximum sentence of three years. The following are a few of the wobbler infractions that can be charged as felonies:

  • Assault with a lethal weapon

  • Domestic violence

  • Forgery

  • Sexual battery

  • Vandalism

If you're having trouble categorizing a California felony charge, consult Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys to advise you on them.


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