How big a problem is a felony charge? Felony charges are some of the most serious criminal charges an individual can face. Like misdemeanors, a conviction on a felony charge can result in more than one year of incarceration, along with monetary fines and other high penalties.
If you or someone you care about is currently pending a felony charge, you must involve a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
A lawyer can discuss the circumstances of your arrest with you, review the charge and potential penalties, and help you decide how best to proceed with your case.
In some instances, your lawyer may recommend that you formulate and assert a strong legal defense to the felony charge at your bench or jury trial. At other times, however, you might be better off pursuing a favorable plea deal from the state prosecutor, which might involve a period of probation.
No matter the circumstances, a criminal felony defense attorney advocating for you will increase your chances of obtaining a favorable result in your case. In addition to aggressively advocating for you and representing your legal interests, your lawyer can answer all your legal questions and ensure that your constitutional and legal rights remain protected while your criminal case is pending.
What Is a Felony Charge and How Does It Differ From a Misdemeanor?
Comparatively speaking, felony charges are far more serious than misdemeanor charges. If you are convicted of a felony charge, you may receive significant jail time, high monetary fines, and other penalties. However, if you are convicted on a less serious misdemeanor charge, a judge may grant you probation, or you may serve jail time of one year or less for the offense.
A felony conviction on your record can also have more serious collateral consequences as it might prevent you from finding or keeping a job or gaining admission to the educational institution of your choice. Moreover, a landlord may not allow you to live in a particular apartment or residential community due to the felony conviction on your record.
If you are currently pending felony charges, you should retain a criminal defense attorney to represent you in your case as quickly as possible. Your lawyer can immediately safeguard your rights and help you formulate a plan of action for defending against your criminal charge.
What Are Some Common Felony Charges?
Felony charges are no joke. If a police officer recently arrested you and you are pending one or more felony charges, you need a lawyer by your side right away who can advocate for your legal interests. Police officers and state prosecutors are not on your side and will do everything possible to secure a guilty finding or conviction against you in court.
Some felony charges involve homicides, where the death of another person is involved. These criminal charges include murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter of varying degrees.
In addition to homicides, other felony charges involve violent acts, including robbery, carjacking, gross vehicular manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon.
Individuals can also sustain felony drug charges if a police officer finds them possessing a certain quantity of drugs, manufacturing drugs, or engaging in drug trafficking.
Finally, sex crimes like rape, child molestation, possession of child pornography, and lewd acts with a minor can result in felony charges.
Other common felony charges include grand theft, theft crimes involving an automobile, and kidnapping.
A complete list of felony criminal charges is available in the California Criminal Code, which the state legislature codifies. This Code also contains information about the minimum and maximum penalties a criminal court judge may impose upon conviction for one or more of these felony charges.
If you or a person you care about is currently facing one or more of these felony charges, a criminal defense lawyer can help you take the necessary legal actions to defend against your charge and obtain the best possible result in your criminal case.
Who Has to Prove My Felony Case in Court?
In every felony case, the accused individual is the defendant. However, the plaintiff is the State of California, represented by a state prosecutor or state’s attorney.
In any criminal case, the state prosecutor must satisfy their legal burden of proof to obtain a conviction against the defendant. They satisfy their legal burden of proof by demonstrating each element of the felony criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. This is an extremely high standard for the state prosecutor to overcome. If they fail to satisfy their legal burden, the presiding judge can dismiss the felony charge or the entire criminal case.
On the other hand, the defendant does not have to prove anything in their case, satisfy any legal burden of proof, or even testify in court. In fact, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that a defendant has a legal right against self-incrimination.
At a bench trial or jury trial, the defendant does not have to take the witness stand, and they do not have to introduce any evidence. Rather, the sole legal burden of proof on the felony charge rests with the state prosecutor.
Although the criminal defendant does not have a legal burden of proof to satisfy, they may be eligible to raise a legal defense in response to their pending felony charge. These defenses will depend on their specific charge, but their lawyer can assert any relevant defenses in court. If the judge or jury accepts the defense, it may prevent the state prosecutor from establishing their legal burden, and the charge can be subject to dismissal.
A criminal defense attorney can appear with you at all court proceedings, including your trial, and advance the appropriate defense(s) on your behalf. By taking this step, your lawyer can pursue a complete dismissal of the pending felony charge in your case.
What Are the Possible Penalties for a Felony Conviction in Court?
The potential penalties for a felony conviction in California can be significant. However, a skilled criminal defense attorney can work on your behalf to reduce the penalties you ultimately sustain upon conviction and ensure that they are fair and reasonable.
If the state prosecutor handling your case convicts you on a felony charge, you might face imprisonment in a county or state jail and a maximum monetary fine of $10,000.
Moreover, in certain situations, a judge can sentence you to formal felony probation. This type of probation can last for between three and five years. However, while the probation is pending, the defendant must follow all the conditions the judge or probation officer imposes.
Specifically, the defendant may have to attend meetings with their probation officer on a monthly basis, undergo frequent drug testing, complete a specified number of community service hours, and pay the victim a certain amount of monetary restitution, depending upon the circumstances of the offense.
Moreover, judges in California typically categorize criminal offenses as low-term, middle-term, or high-term. In many situations, a judge issues a middle-term sentence to felony defendants. However, if various mitigating or aggravating factors exist, the judge might impose a low-term sentence (due to mitigating factors) or a high-term sentence (due to aggravating factors) for the felony offense.
Mitigating circumstances may include the fact that an individual lacks a criminal history or had not reached the age of majority when they allegedly committed the crime in question. However, aggravating factors include violence that the defendant used against the alleged victim or using a weapon to commit the crime in question.
First-degree murder and other serious felony offenses in California are also capital crimes. If the state prosecutor convicts the defendant, a judge can sentence them to a term of life imprisonment without parole, or the judge may impose the death penalty on the defendant.
What Are “Wobbler” Offenses in California?
California is one state in the country that uses the concept of wobbler offenses. A wobbler crime is an offense that a state prosecutor may charge as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending upon the circumstances. The prosecutor handling the criminal case has some discretion about how to charge the particular crime. If a criminal defendant has a significant criminal history or the alleged offense is particularly violent in nature, the prosecutor will typically charge the crime as a felony.
Common wobbler offenses include sexual battery, elder abuse, criminal threats, embezzlement, corporal injury to a spouse, brandishing a weapon in public, grand theft, assault using a deadly weapon, and second-degree burglary.
In some instances, a criminal defense lawyer can work with the state prosecutor to secure a favorable plea deal. As part of that plea deal, the prosecutor may agree to charge the crime in question as a misdemeanor. Alternatively, the criminal defense lawyer can file a motion with the court, asking the judge to reduce the offense from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Plea Deal Negotiations in Felony Cases
In some instances, it may be to a criminal defendant’s benefit for their lawyer to pursue a favorable plea deal from the state prosecutor handling their case. In a plea deal, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a criminal charge, although it might be a reduced criminal charge.
In a plea deal arrangement, the state prosecutor will typically offer the defendant a period of probation or agree to reduce the charge from a felony down to a misdemeanor. In exchange for this concession from the prosecutor, however, the criminal defendant must typically give up certain legal and constitutional rights, including their right to a trial by jury and their right to appeal.
In some instances, prosecutors will offer a plea deal if they are not confident in their ability to secure a conviction against the defendant in a trial. The prosecutor may not have sufficient evidence to satisfy their legal burden, or they may not be confident that a judge or jury will convict the defendant.
The decision to accept a particular plea deal is ultimately up to the criminal defendant. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can recommend whether you should accept a plea deal in your felony case or take your case to a criminal jury or bench trial. In either instance, your lawyer will be by your side, advocating for you every step of the way and pursuing the best possible result in your case.
Defending Against a Felony Charge
A criminal defense attorney can help you raise a powerful legal defense for your pending felony charge. If the defense is successful, your case may be subject to a complete dismissal.
The defenses that you can raise in response to a felony charge will depend upon various factors, including the circumstances surrounding the alleged incident, as well as the charge itself.
First, if your felony charges resulted from a traffic stop, you might allege that the police officer who pulled your vehicle over violated your Fourth Amendment constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures. For example, the officer may have initiated a random traffic stop or may not have had a necessary reasonable suspicion to pull your vehicle over in the first place. As a result, any evidence that the officer later obtained might be subject to suppression.
In addition, you might allege that the police officer violated your Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination by continuing to question you after you invoked your legal right to the presence of counsel. You can assert this right if a police officer takes you into custody and begins interrogating you.
Also, depending on the pending felony charges against you, you might allege that you acted in self-defense, meaning that the alleged victim was the initial aggressor, and you responded with a proportional amount of force. You can also allege that you were defending your property or someone else.
Finally, in a felony drug case, you might allege that the drugs in question belonged to someone else and that you had no knowledge of their presence.
A skilled criminal defense attorney can advise you if you are eligible to raise one or more of these legal defenses at your criminal court trial. If you are, your lawyer can advance that offense on your behalf in court and pursue a complete dismissal of your pending felony charge.
Call a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer for Legal Assistance Today
To achieve a favorable result in your pending felony case, you should have skilled legal representation in your corner as early in the process as possible. A criminal defense attorney can help you decide how best to handle your pending case. Your lawyer can then represent you at all criminal court proceedings, including your jury trial or sentencing hearing, and advocate for the best available result.