Types of Crimes
As Sacramento criminal defense attorneys, our goal is to reach the best possible resolution for a client. Many times that means convincing the DA or a judge to dismiss the case. Other times that means the least severe sentence. The sentencing laws in California are both severe and complex. We strive to keep up with the latest developments when it comes to sentencing.
In California there are three categories of crimes. In order of their severity, from least to most, they are: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. The three categories are distinguished by the severity of the punishment.
An infraction in California is defined as an offense that is punishable by a fine, in no case imprisonment. The most common infractions are traffic infractions such as speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign, or running a red light. Not all traffic offenses are infractions however. There are many traffic offenses that can be misdemeanors or even felonies. Among these you find: drunk driving (DUI), driving recklessly, and evading a police officer. There are also a few infractions that are not traffic offenses.
A misdemeanor in California is defined as an offense that is punishable by imprisonment up to a year. This category is quite large and includes offenses such as drunk driving (DUI), petty theft, possession of marijuana and battery. While in theory most of these crimes are punishable by up to one year, if you don't have any prior convictions and the facts are not egregious, the punishment if convicted will likely be much less. In certain cases the DA or the court may offer a Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) program. If offered DEJ, upon completion of a program, the charges will be dismissed. In certain drug related cases, you may be offered or be entitled to a Diversion program. A diversion program is a fairly intense drug program. Upon its completion however the charges will be dismissed. If you have drug priors and are facing new charge of possession of narcotics you may also be entitled to a drug program under Proposition 36 (Prop 36). This is a more intense program however if you successfully complete it your charges will be dismissed.
The most serious category, Felonies, are offenses punishable by imprisonment for over a year and up to the death penalty. This category encompasses a large number of offenses. Examples of felonies are: petty theft with a prior, drunk driving (DUI) with 3 or more prior misdemeanor convictions or one prior felony conviction within the last ten years, drunk driving (DUI) with injury, possession of certain narcotics, possession for sale of narcotics, vehicle theft, assault with a deadly weapon, terrorist threats, murder. Some felonies are "straight felonies" while others are "wobblers." The term "straight felony" is used to refer to a felony offense that can not be reduced to misdemeanor. The term "wobbler" is used to refer to a felony offense that can also be charged or can be reduced to misdemeanor. There are many factors that determine whether a "wobbler" will be reduced to a misdemeanor and the factors vary from offense to offense. For example, a charge of felony DUI with injury may be reduced to a misdemeanor drunk driving if the accused person does not have a prior record and the injuries to the person hit are not serious. While the office of the District Attorney has unwritten policies about when to reduce a "wobbler" to a misdemeanor, there are no set factors for most offenses. As experienced Sacramento DUI lawyers, we would diligently work on convincing the District Attorney, the judge, or if necessary, the jury that an alternative, reasonably related offense, that allows for a misdemeanor result should be used.
Felony sentencing can be very complex, especially in cases where multiple charges and allegations are filed and where the person accused has prior conviction under California's three strikes law. Click this link for an overview of California's Three Strikes law. Contact a Sacramento attorney for help with California DUI law.
At the Law Offices of Bonilla & Cintean, LLP. we can help guide you through the maze of the California as well as federal criminal justice system.