When a person has been arrested on suspicion of committing a criminal offense, they will be given a citation specifying the code section. Oftentimes the code section will allow for a reduction from a misdemeanor to an infraction. If it does not, the charge will have to be negotiated to a lesser charge so that an infraction is possible.
The concept is made clear through the use of an example. Let’s say that David lives down the street from his favorite bar. One night, his friends all come over and they head out to celebrate David’s birthday. After the celebrations, they are walking back to David’s place from the bar being loud, yelling at each other, and shouting out at passersby. An officer observes David’s behavior and writes him a citation for a violation of California Penal Code §647(f).
California Penal Code §647 starts with the following phrase: “Every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor”. There is no vagueness or ambiguity, a person who is charged under this code section shall be charged as a misdemeanor.
As a result of the language of the statute, a Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer cannot go into court and negotiate with the prosecutor that the charge under §647 be reduced to an infraction because the code section simply does not allow for it to be.
So then what options does a Criminal Defense Specialist have? To accept the charge and complete the case? Definitely not. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney will demonstrate to the Prosecutor that the facts of the case do not rise to the level of a conviction under §647. They will argue that if the Prosecutor wants to take the case to trial, they will have a hard time demonstrating that all the requisite elements are met, beyond a reasonable doubt, to find David guilty of a misdemeanor under §647. A prosecutor is not likely to simply let the case go.
The attorney will then state to the prosecutor, that the Prosecutor can charge David under Penal Code §415, Disturbing the Peace. §415 does not state that any person charged under this code section is guilty of a misdemeanor. In fact, it is silent on the issue and simply states the potential consequences. This is because a charge under this code section may be charged as an infraction, with nothing more than the same consequences as a traffic ticket.
It is important to know the law and the potential consequences and sentences each charge may hold. It is not only important because it may result in a much more favorable outcome for you, but also will allow for skillful negotiations with the Prosecutor. If you find yourself in this situation, do not hesitate to hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible!