Articles Posted in Misdemeanor

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, whether it be a drinking while intoxicated or a Los Angeles Hit and Run, you will be required to enter a plea. You may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. What the overall consequences are will depend on the type of criminal offense you are being charged for.

  1. Infraction

An infraction is the lowest level of criminal offense. Infractions are comprised of offenses like parking tickets, traffic tickets, public nuisance or disturbing the peace. These charges are very simple and straightforward. Oftentimes they do not require a court appearance, you can pay a fine and have the case closed. The penalty is generally nothing more than a fine. An infraction does not go on your criminal record and you are not required to report it on applications that ask for your criminal history. If you are charged with a criminal offense, this is your best possible outcome.

If you have been arrested or cited for a Hit and Run in Los Angeles, it  can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Which charge it is will depend on the facts of the case. Prosecutors review the officer’s statements, witness statements and the evidence to make a determination.

A Los Angeles hit and run is charged under California Vehicle Code § 20002, 20003, and 20004. If there is damage to property, it will be charged under California Vehicle Code §20002. If there is injury to person it will be charged under California Vehicle Code §20003, and if there is death it will be charged under California Vehicle code §20004.

Whether it will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor under each statute will depend on how bad the damage to property is and how bad the injury is.

There is a significant difference between offenses that are charged as Misdemeanors and those that are filed as Felonies. Misdemeanors generally have lower sentences and consequences, and do not emphasize a seriousness that felonies carry with them. Felonies almost always require imprisonment of some sort, and higher consequences. Felonies also mean that there was extensive injury or damage which gave rise to the charge.

Many times a code section under which the criminal charge arises will specify whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. Sometimes it can be charged as either, and the ultimate charge will be determined by Prosecutors.

Let’s consider some examples of both. California Penal Code §550 makes it unlawful for a person to knowingly present or cause to be presented a false or fraudulent claim for the payment of a loss or injury, including payment of a loss or injury under a contract of insurance. In addition, under the same code section it is unlawful for a person to make a statement that is intended to be presented to any insurer or insurance claimant in connection with or in opposition of any claim for payment or other benefit pursuant to an insurance policy, knowing that the statement contains false or misleading information.

If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, it will be listed as one of three different categories: infraction, misdemeanor or felony. Each level has different consequences and means something different if it remains on your record.

  1. Infractions

Infractions are the lowest level of criminal offenses. This class includes traffic tickets, and small offenses such as littering or jaywalking. Because it is the lowest level of criminal offenses, the potential consequences are low as well. A person who has been found guilty of an infraction will likely just pay a fine. They will not  be required to report it on applications and it will not show up on background searches.

Many factors will influence prosecutors in how the charge a criminal offense. Most often it is the variable of injuries that will persuade their final decision. However, many times misdemeanors are overcharged as felonies, and a person ends up facing charges and proving innocence on a much higher charge than it should have been. This is why the services of a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer are crucial from the very beginning of your case.

When a person has been charged with an offense, the case will be submitted for review by the Prosecutors. The prosecutors will review the facts and make a determination of whether or not the case will move forward, and whether or not it will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

Misdemeanors:

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.

If you are not a lawyer, the criminal judicial system is somewhat complex and confusing. You must have a lot of questions, such as, when do I have to appear in Court? When do I enter a plea? Can I enter a plea at anytime or do I lose my chance?

Breaking down the process helps understand how it works. Additionally, seeking the guidance and advice of a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will give you the best possible chances of dismissing or reducing your case because a legal professional not only went to school for this, but they know the ins and outs of the system. Furthermore, if you hire an experienced attorney, they will be familiar with the Courts, the Judges, the Prosecutors and even the court clerks.

Let’s consider an example, and walk through the process.

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.

Many people come into our office and ask if they should accept an offer from the Prosecutor and plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Many people believe that pleading guilty will help the problem go away faster as they do not have to make additional trips to Court, and it will save them the expense of hiring a San Diego Criminal Defense lawyer.

Whereas this is true, the problem does not, in fact, go away. Certainly, the person has no additional expenses, and they do not have to stress about coming to Court and addressing the charge. However, the conviction will remain on their record.

Having a misdemeanor charge on your record will impact your life in ways that are a lot more serious than the stress of appearing Court and hiring an attorney.