The Basics of Being Charged with a Misdemeanor in California
Although the term “misdemeanor” sounds much less ominous than “felony” when you are charged with a crime, do not think for a moment that being charged with a misdemeanor crime is something to be taken lightly.
Misdemeanors convictions can still have a big impact on your life. Misdemeanors fall into two basic categories:
Standard – punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Gross or aggravated – punishable by up to 364 days in jail and fine of up to $1,000 or more.
There are also certain crimes in California that are considered “wobbler” offenses. This means a prosecutor can choose to charge the crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In other cases, it may mean choosing between charging a crime as a misdemeanor or an infraction.
Some common standard misdemeanor crimes may include drug possession, being drunk in public, petty theft, prostitution, shoplifting, or trespassing. Aggravated misdemeanors can include domestic battery, DUI without an injury, violating a restraining order, or driving on a suspended license among many others. Misdemeanor/felony wobblers can include charges such as brandishing a weapon, elder abuse, or assault with a deadly weapon to name a few. How a wobbler crime is charged will depend greatly on the facts of a case.
Mounting a Misdemeanor Charges Defense
Conviction of a misdemeanor charge will result in a permanent criminal record if a defendant pleads guilty, or no contest, or is found guilty at trial. Aside from jail time and fines, this one fact can have a huge impact on your life for many years to come. It can impact your ability to find a place to live, pass a background check if you are applying for a job, affect your ability to obtain credit, and many other areas of your life.
For these reasons, you need to take a misdemeanor charge just as serious as any other legal challenge you may face. Mounting an aggressive misdemeanor charges defense can sometimes lead to a dismissal of charges, a bargaining down to an infraction, or finding several weaknesses in the elements of a case that can lead to an innocent outcome.
The key is to find a misdemeanor charges defense attorney in Sacramento with many years of experience for your type of case and one who will give your case the full attention it needs to ensure you get the best possible representation.
Joseph P. Hougnon serves clients in Sacramento and other nearby northern California communities.