California Criminal Defense – Crimes, Felonies, and Misdemeanors

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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If you have been accused of a crime in California, California criminal defense with the help of a criminal attorney should be your top priority. A criminal conviction for a felony or a misdemeanor, whether for drunk driving, white collar crime, domestic abuse, or any other incident, can lead to jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record. If you have been accused of a crime, you have legal rights and you need an experienced California criminal defense attorney to help protect your freedom.

California crimes

The California penal code defines behaviors that constitute criminal acts within the state of California. Examples of criminal behaviors or illegal activities that can lead to criminal charges include:

  • Homicide
  • Mayhem
  • Kidnapping
  • Taking Hostages
  • Robbery
  • Attempted Murder
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Criminal profiteering
  • Money laundering
  • Fraud and embezzlement
  • Aiding and abetting
  • Falsifying evidence

In addition, there are numerous other criminal charges including domestic violence, kidnapping, indecent exposure or sexual offenses, drunk driving, illegal gambling, and trespassing, among others.

Felonies and Misdemeanors

The first thing you need to be concerned about when arrested or cited for a California criminal offense by a police officer is whether you have been arrested for an infraction, a felony or a misdemeanor. Under California law, these three separate categories of offenses have very different consequences. For example:

  • Infractions are traffic violations. You will face a fine, but no jail time.
  • Misdemeanors are those crimes that are considered less serious than felonies. For a misdemeanor offense, you may go to jail for up to one year and face a potential fine of up to $2000.
  • Felonies are serious offenses. If you are convicted of a felony, you may go to jail for one year or more, and face larger fines.

Often, the determination of whether a criminal incident is a felony or a misdemeanor is made based on the extent of the criminal actions. For example, assault and battery can be a felony or misdemeanor. If you assault or batter someone with your hand, for example, that may be a misdemeanor. If you use a baseball bat or a gun or something more dangerous or potentially deadly to commit assault, then it can rise to the level of a felony. Likewise, your first drunk driving incident may be a misdemeanor, but if you injure someone while driving drunk or if you are arrested for drunk driving for the fourth time within 10 years, then your drunk driving charge may be a felony.

Note that both felonies and misdemeanors show up on your criminal record or background check.

What is California Criminal Defense?

California criminal defense attorneys do a number of things to help those accused of criminal acts in California, depending on the situation. While defenses vary depending on the nature of the crime, in general, a California criminal defense lawyer may:

  • Try to introduce reasonable doubt so you are found innocent. In a court of law, you cannot be convicted of a criminal defense unless the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt you committed the crime. By presenting counter-evidence, proving there are problems with the prosecutor’s evidence, or telling an alternate version of the story, your California defense attorney can introduce doubt in the minds of the jury and you may be found innocent.
  • Assert constitutional defenses. Under the 4th amendment you are protected from unfair search and seizure. Other rules and court cases dictate that you must be read your rights and that you do not have to incriminate yourself. If any evidence was collected in violation of your legal rights, your California defense lawyer can help to ensure that evidence is not used against you in court.
  • Introducing affirmative defenses. In some cases, you may admit to committing a crime but you may have a defense or a justifiable reason. For example, if you were accused of shooting someone but you only did so in self defense, then self defense is your affirmative defense and your California criminal defense lawyer will help you prove your case.
  • Arranging plea agreements: In some cases, you are guilty of the offense and there is no way around it. A California criminal defense lawyer can still help by working with the prosecutor to arrange a deal wherein you serve less jail time, plea to a lesser offense, or face less stringent penalties than you might otherwise have faced.

Getting Help

Terani and Associates is a firm made up of aggressive criminal defense attorneys who fight to protect their clients’ rights. Terani and Associates practices criminal law only, which means all their resources and efforts are devoted to defending those accused of criminal offenses in California. The California defense attorneys at Terani and Associates handle all types of criminal cases, from drunk driving to white collar crime to fraud, and more. Terani and Associates represents both adult and juvenile offenders and Terani and Associates advocates passionately on behalf of all clients, treating each client with respect and treating each case as unique.

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