California Criminal Defense
If you have committed a crime in California, are suspected of committing a crime in California or have been accused of committing a crime in California, the government may prosecute you. If found guilty, you could face punishment ranging from the relatively minor (a small fine, for example) to the very severe (such as prison time).
According to Wikipedia:
Criminal law involves the prosecution of wrongful acts by the state which are considered to be so serious that they are a breach of the sovereign's peace….The vast majority of the crimes committed in the United States are prosecuted and punished at the state level. Federal criminal law focuses on areas specifically relevant to the federal government like evading payment of federal income tax, mail theft, or physical attacks on federal officials, as well as interstate crimes like drug trafficking and wire fraud.
Types of Crimes in California
Crimes are generally categorized as felonies and misdemeanors. A felony is a more serious crime that is punishable by more than one year in prison. A misdemeanor is punishable by one year or less in prison, or no prison time at all.
Certain crimes may be both felonies and misdemeanors depending on the severity of the crime and whether you have previously been found guilty of the same crime.
Examples of California felonies may include:
- Aggravated assault and battery in California
- Arson in California
- Burglary in California
- Robbery in California
- Murder in California
- Kidnapping in California
Examples of California misdemeanors may include:
- Petty theft in California
- Public intoxication in California
- Possession of small amounts of drugs in California
- Reckless driving in California
If you have been charged with a crime in California, a local California criminal defense attorney can explain the potential consequences of the crime and help defend you in court.
The California Criminal Process
The California criminal law process involves a number of stages. These stages may vary depending on the jurisdiction and severity of the crime. In general, the criminal justice process involves the following stages:
- California state law enforcement officials or local law enforcement investigate the crime
- A California judge may issue a search warrant that allows investigators to search for evidence at a specific location
- Law enforcement officials will interrogate witnesses and potential suspects to gain more information
- If the officers have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, they will arrest the person suspected of committing the crime
- Law enforcement officials will decide to file criminal charges against the person suspected of committing the crime
- The charges will be read to the person in court during an arraignment, where the person accused of the crime is asked to plead guilty or not guilty
- The person accused of the crime (also known as the defendant) may be released from custody or may be kept in jail while awaiting trial
- Before trial, the defendant's California criminal defense attorney may attempt to negotiate a plea bargain, or agreement for the defendant to plead guilty to lesser charges
- If a plea agreement cannot be reached, the defendant's case will be resolved in a trial, where evidence is presented and either a judge or jury decides whether the defendant is guilty of the crime
- After the judge or jury considers all of the evidence, a verdict is reached
- If the defendant is found guilty, he or she may choose to appeal the decision and ask a higher California court to overturn it because of mistakes made during the criminal justice process
If you are found guilty of a crime in California, the punishment may vary depending on the severity of the crime, your intentions when you committed the crime, and your past criminal record. A California criminal defense lawyer can explain the consequences to you in more detail.
Additional California Criminal Law Resources
The U.S. Department of Justice's information on federal criminal law
Information about U.S. Courts
Information about California Courts
Lawyers.com information about classification of crimes