The Basics of Criminal Defense
Regardless of whether you’re innocent and need to clear your name, guilty of a lesser crime and fighting trumped-up charges, or guilty as charged, but facing a disproportionately harsh sentence, you need an attorney that will aggressively fight for you.
I've Been Charged With A Crime - Now What?The first thing you need to do after you've been charged with a crime is secure a good attorney. But the next thing you need is work with your attorney to understand the charges that are being brought against you, any plea deals that may be on the table, and the ramifications of each. In particular, the future you're facing largely depends on whether you're being accused of a misdemeanor or a felony.
What Is A Misdemeanor?Criminal law encompasses relatively minor crimes, such as petty theft, to serious crimes, such as rape and murder. The "minor" crimes are known as misdemeanors and are subject to very different punishments than serious crimes, known as felonies.
Potential penalties may include a fine, probation, community service, or jail time not in excess of one year. Unlike many other states, California does not divide its misdemeanors into classes, with sentence ranges for each, but instead assigns each individual crime its own penalty. It's very important, therefore, to work with an experienced attorney who's knowledgeable about these numerous laws and their nuances.
What Is A Felony?Serious crimes are known as felonies and are handled much differently than misdemeanors. Probation and community service are not options for these crimes, which all entail varying lengths of prison sentences. Like misdemeanors, each felony has its own prescribed penalty, instead of belonging to a category with a possible sentence range. However, this does not mean that your attorney has no recourse, even if you are found guilty. Each felony also has three potential penalties from which the judge can choose. Depending on your circumstances and any aggravating or mitigating factors, you could receive any one of the three, which is why you need to hire an attorney that will work hard to present your case in the best possible light.
For example, someone convicted of robbery may get two, three, or five years in prison. The final penalty depends on how the judge evaluates the facts of the case. If the robber was under duress and had no prior criminal record, the judge may sentence him to two years. If he was especially aggressive during the robbery and already has a criminal record, he may be sentenced to five years.
Our goal is to see you walk free if you're innocent of the crime, and if you are guilty, to emphasize any mitigating factors and disprove any potentially aggravating factors the prosecution presents to the court.
What Are "Wobblers"Some crimes can be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor, or a misdemeanor or an infraction at the discretion of the judge. These crimes are commonly known as "wobblers." Although they are generally less serious than others in their class, they are very important cases to win, because the difference in the potential penalties and permanent criminal record between the two categories can be enormous. If you've been accused of a crime and there is any doubt as to its classification, consult with an attorney immediately to learn more about your options.
Three Strikes LawOne final reason why its vital to hire the best criminal defense attorney you possibly can is California's "Three Strikes Law." This law was designed to prevent career criminals from roaming the streets by giving a mandatory 25 years to life sentence for a third-offense felony. Although Proposition 36, passed in 2012, revised this law to include only serious or violent felonies, a third strike is nevertheless a very serious matter. If you already have a felony on your criminal record, hire an attorney right away to keep your record as clean as possible going forward so you can avoid this enhanced sentence.