This is the final part of our four part series on the California criminal process. In the last chapter, we will cover what happens after you are convicted or plead guilty, including the sentencing, post-conviction, modifications & reductions and expungement stages of the process.
If you plead guilty or the jury convicts you, you will then be sentenced for the crime. In misdemeanor cases, this usually occurs at the time your case is settled or at the trial. You may be placed on probation, sentenced to jail time and/or be ordered to pay a fine.
In felony cases, the sentencing hearing is scheduled approximately 30 days after the trial or case settlement so the probation department can prepare a report to provide a recommendation to the judge. At the hearing, your Vista criminal attorney will argue for the lowest possible punishment while the prosecution will generally argue for a higher sentence. If you plead guilty, then your maximum sentence may already be agreed upon by the prosecution or judge. In some cases, the exact sentence may already be agreed upon as a condition of the plea bargain. This is known as a stipulated sentence. If you were found guilty at the trial, then no plea agreement has been put in place and you could receive the maximum sentence for the crime you have been convicted of.
Felony punishments can range from formal probation to jail time to a stay in state prison. Occasionally, you may receive a sentencing alternative such as a residential drug treatment program, counseling, work furlough or community service. These programs often require an extra push from your criminal attorneys. Vista judges currently are hesitant to offer house arrest and electronic monitoring as incarceration options, but this may change in the near future as jails and prisons become increasingly overcrowded.
The judge has a wide variety of options when it comes to sentencing and in most cases, the sentence cannot be appealed unless it is considered unreasonable when compared with the severity of the crime.
After you have been convicted, you may appeal your case or withdraw your guilty plea and motion for a new trial. In many cases, this occurs when a defendant was not adequately informed by his or her lawyer about the consequences of a guilty plea. In other cases, this may take place when the trial was based upon errors or violations of civil rights including exclusion of evidence, misconduct on the part of the prosecution, improper instructions being given to the jury, denial of due process, etc.
Modifications and Reductions
If you have complied with your prohibition for a lengthy period of time and then become unable to fulfill a condition of the sentence due to a change in your circumstance, your Vista defense attorney can request the judge to modify your probation. In some cases, the judge may even be willing to terminate your probation. Your lawyer may also be able to petition the judge to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor if your have completed your probation.
If you have already completed your probation, you may qualify for an expungement, which will allow you to have the criminal offense removed from your record. This can be particularly helpful for those seeking employment or housing, as persons performing a background check on you will no longer know you were convicted of a crime.
In rare circumstances, a judge may even be willing to terminate your probation early and expunge your conviction.
If you haven’t already caught the previous sections of this series, be sure to read Better Understanding The Criminal Process In California, parts I, II and III. If you have been charged with a crime, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050.
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