When you have been arrested on suspicion of having committed a criminal offense, you will be issued a citation. The citation will contain the date in which you have to appear in court, the courthouse, the law that you have violated, and whether the charge is an infraction, felony, or misdemeanor. It is important to understand the dynamic of each, and to understand that some charges can be charged as either.
At the time of the arrest, the officer will give you the citation and he, or she, will determine what the level of the citation will be. However, the prosecutor’s office will determine whether you will be charged, and whether that charge will be changed from what is stated on your citation.
For example, if you have been arrested for driving under the influence, the citation may read, VC 23152, Misdemeanor. This means that you are being charged under California Vehicle Code §23152, as a misdemeanor. Each level carries with it its own characteristics, and can be reduced with the right arguments and defenses.
A felony charge is the highest level. Felony charges almost always carry with them jail time and high fine. Oftentimes, those charged with felonies remain in custody. A felony will also require that you appear in court whether you have an attorney or not. You always want to avoid a felony charge on your record.
Misdemeanors are the in between. The can potentially have jail time, or high fines, but it will depend on the actual offense, your criminal background, and the facts of the case. For example, if you are charged with a first offense DUI, and it is a misdemeanor, your fine may be high but you may not serve any jail time. However, if you are charged with a second offense misdemeanor, some jail time may be mandatory based upon the fact that you have a prior.
An infraction is the least of all criminal offenses. It includes no jail time, and is generally just a low fine. An infraction will also not remain on your record and you are not required to disclose it on applications. Traffic tickets are infractions.
A charge can be reduces to a misdemeanor from a felony, or an infraction from a misdemeanor, if the statute allows for it. For example, drunk and disorderly conduct, which is generally a misdemeanor can be reduced to a disturbing the peace charge which can be an infraction. In fact, a person who is charged with disturbing the peace as a misdemeanor can be reduced to a disturbing the peace infraction.
It is crucial to have an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer on your team, especially when the result can be a reduction in charge. Having your charge reduced can make a huge difference to the consequences you may face with a conviction, so don’t take any chances!