How Crimes are Classified in the Peninsula and Silicon Valley and How it can Affect You
When it comes to criminal charges, the severity of the charges falls into one of three categories. The punishment for the crime depends on the crime’s classification. The three categories are felony, misdemeanor, and infraction, with infraction being the least severe category of crime. In some states, there are also crimes called wobbler crimes that can be classified either way. Below we will discuss some of the important questions about crime classification that people often ask.
What is the Difference Between an Infraction, Misdemeanor, and Felony?
Infractions: Infractions are often referred to as petty offenses and are minor violations of state laws in which the typical penalty is a fine. The state of California does not punish infractions with probation or jail time, however they may not be removed from your record until a year has passed.. Often they involve very low level cases, violations of city code and some traffic violations. . Infractions may end up in criminal court and should be taken seriously as they will remain on your criminal record until they are expunged.
Misdemeanors: These crimes carry the potential for a penalty up to one year in jail in California as well as a fine up to $1,000. More severe punishments for some misdemeanors can be ordered in some cases. Misdemeanors are typically considered less serious than felony crimes, but they can still have serious consequences. In addition to fines and jail time, offenders may be sentenced to counseling, restitution for the victim, community service, and probation. Misdemeanor offenses also appear on the convicted person’s criminal record. Examples of misdemeanor crimes include first-time basic DUIs, soliciting prostitution, shoplifting, and domestic violence.
Felony: This is the most serious classification of criminal offense and can be punished by more than one year in jail. Felony convictions can also include consequences such as probation, significant fines, loss of the right to own a firearm, and loss of the right to
What is a Wobbler Crime?
Wobbler crimes are offenses that could be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The charge may also be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor at the time of sentencing if the judge deems it appropriate. In some cases, wobbler crimes can be infractions or misdemeanors, as well. The situation surrounding the crime as well as the criminal history of the defendant can determine how a wobbler crime may be classified.
What are Some Common Wobbler Crimes in California?
If you were arrested in the San Jose or San Mateo areas, California law pertains to your case and the State of California has over 100 different crimes that can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. One of the most common wobbler crimes is grand theft. Sentencing for grand theft depends on the value of the stolen property. Wobbler cases are also common when the crime involves juvenile delinquency. Other examples of wobbler crimes include assault and battery, domestic violence, some DUI charges, burglary, and theft.
What are the Advantages of a Wobbler Crime?
Of course, no one is ever happy to have criminal charges against them, but when a criminal charge falls into a wobbler category, it is a bit of a victory in the grand scheme of things. When a client’s charge falls into the wobbler category there is almost always the assumption that jail time and monetary penalties could be reduced. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side when you are facing a wobbler charge could make a significant difference in how your charge is classified.
What Things Will be Considered When Deciding How to Classify a Wobbler Crime?
While there are many factors that go into deciding between a misdemeanor and felony, some of the most common things that the judge and prosecutor will look at when determining how to classify a wobbler crime are:
- Prior criminal history and if this is your first offense or not.
- Were multiple crimes committed in conjunction with the wobbler crime?
- How well will your attorney be able to challenge the prosecutor’s case? Were there witnesses and evidence in your favor?
- Whether you will be able to challenge police accounts or evidence in the case, including the constitutionality of your stop and arrest.
When can a Wobbler Crime be Reduced From a Felony Charge to a Misdemeanor Charge?
There are four stages during the case when a California wobbler crime may be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. Those include:
- When the prosecutor charges the crime
- When the defendant answers during the felony preliminary hearing
- At the sentencing
- If the defendant was not sentenced to prison and after they have completed felony probation, a petition can be filed to reduce the felony conviction to a misdemeanor
How Does the Prosecutor Decide How a Crime Will be Charged?
California statutes do not set forth standards for how the prosecutor should classify a wobbler crime. The decision is entirely up to the discretion of the prosecutor and that is why a skilled criminal defense attorney can influence the decision. Most prosecutors will decide how to classify a wobbler crime using the Uniform Crime Charging Standards that is published by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA). The CDAA recommendations are that prosecutors consider the following:
● Severity of the crime
● Prior criminal record
● Defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement
● The age of the defendant
● The likelihood that the defendant will commit additional crimes
● Whether the defendant will be eligible for probation
● The strength of the prosecutor’s case
What are Possible Consequences of a Criminal Conviction?
If you are convicted of a felony crime whether in San Jose, San Mateo or elsewhere in the Bay Area, there are certain privileges and rights that will be revoked. These include lengthy prison sentences, large monetary fines, loss of voting rights, loss of the right to carry a firearm, difficulties obtaining a job, and difficulties finding housing just to name a few.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties are much less and will likely include less jail time and monetary fines. You also will not lose many of the rights and privileges that you lose when convicted of a felony.
Why do You Need a San Jose Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you have been charged with a crime, especially if it is a wobbler crime, an experienced defense attorney will be able to review your case and determine the most effective arguments to convince the prosecutor and judge to minimize your potential penalties. The difference between criminal charges is enormous and not one that you want to risk when you are facing consequences that could be life-altering.
If you are facing criminal charges, the attorneys at the Law Office of James Dunn can review your case and help make sure that your rights are protected. Contact us today and schedule a consultation at one of our convenient California locations.