While most people understand that a felony is worse than a misdemeanor, they don’t understand what exactly is the difference between misdemeanors versus felonies in California. Here’s what you should know when it comes to the differences between felonies and misdemeanors, including why it is so vitally important to work with a top criminal attorney in Vista if you are charged with either kind of crime.
Misdemeanors Versus Felonies in California
When it comes to misdemeanors versus felonies, the easiest way to distinguish the two is by saying that misdemeanors are less serious and will only result in penalties such as fines, jail or probation, but on top of those sentence options available for misdemeanors, felonies in California can leave you sentenced to time in prison or even result in the death penalty in some cases.
What is a Misdemeanor in California?
While the definitions vary from state to state, in California, a misdemeanor is a crime that carries a sentence no worse than one year in county jail. In some misdemeanor cases, you may even have the right to waive your appearance in court and have your criminal defense attorney appear on your behalf. Common misdemeanor crimes include cases of DUI, petty theft, minor drug possession and most cases of domestic violence.
What Are Felonies in California?
Felonies are more serious crimes and if you are convicted, you may end up serving time in a state prison, although some convictions will result in probation time, which may be served in county jail. Additionally, many low-level felony crimes allow a state prison sentence to be served in local jail under a split sentence. A split sentence requires part of the sentence to be in a local jail while the other part is served while out of jail on community supervision.
It is worth noting that felony probation (also known as formal probation) has a lot more restrictions than misdemeanor (or summary) probation.
More Differences Between Misdemeanors Versus Felonies
There are other differences besides sentencing when it comes to misdemeanors versus felonies in California. If you are accused of a felony, you must go to court in person, which isn’t always the case for misdemeanors. No matter what sentence you receive, having a felony conviction on your record can seriously jeopardize your future, preventing you from owning firearms, leaving you with a DNA record in the state and federal database, and making you likely to face discrimination while seeking employment and looking for affordable housing.
If the crime is a violent or serious felony in California, you could even receive a strike on your record under the three strikes law, meaning that after you receive three such counts on your record, you could face life imprisonment.
Common felony charges include grand theft, drug sales, aggravated battery, homicide, rape and robbery. In some felony cases, a top criminal attorney in Vista will be able to plead the charges down to a misdemeanor, allowing you to serve a much shorter sentence and protect your right to bear arms.
Special Misdemeanor Offenses
While misdemeanors are generally lesser offenses, there are two specific forms of misdemeanors with more serious consequences than the rest. If you are charged with a misdemeanor domestic violence or a sex crime, you should be aware that you will face additional penalties beyond those of a typical misdemeanor.
Anyone accused of domestic violence will be required to go to court and should contact a criminal attorney in Vista, even if the crime is a misdemeanor level charge. Aside from being required to attend court in person, you will also lose your right to own a firearm if you are convicted and this could even affect your ability to serve in the armed forces.
Even misdemeanor sex offenses will require you to register on the sex offender registry for life. While a law set to take effect in 2021 will result in most people convicted of misdemeanor sex crimes to only register for ten years, those who have been on the registry for the minimum required amount of time will not be automatically removed from it. Instead, they will need to petition the court to be removed from the registry.
While anyone accused of a crime should seek legal counsel, it is imperative that anyone charged with a felony contact a criminal attorney in Vista as soon as possible. Please schedule a consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050.
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