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.
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.
A misdemeanor is a second level criminal offense. Misdemeanors vary greatly in their range of potential consequences, but generally do not include cases where a person has been injured or vast amounts of damage have occurred. For example, if a Los Angeles DUI charge involves bodily injury to a person, or thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to property, it may be charged as a felony. However, if the DUI does not involve any type of injury or damage to property, and is a first offense, it will likely be charged as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor may carry a minimal jail sentence but not often. It generally involves a fine, community service and/or probation. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you do have to report it on any applications that ask for your criminal history. Remember, being arrested and charged is not enough to be a conviction. If you are required to enter a plea of guilty or are found guilty by a jury or a court, then you have been convicted. You do not need to report on an application as part of your criminal history, unless you have been convicted.
A felony is the highest level of criminal offense you can be charged with. This requires significant injury to a person or property. For example, a Los Angeles Hit and Run where no one was injured and property was only slightly scratched or dented, will likely be charged as a misdemeanor, no a felony. A felony will carry with a jail sentence more often than not. Felonies will also require a higher fine. A felony will need to be reported anytime you are asked to report your criminal history.
It is important to remember that what you have been charged with is not the final outcome of your case. With proper strategy and careful argument, you are able to move in between the different levels. So if you have been charged with a misdemeanor, it is possible to have the misdemeanor reduced to an infraction. Similarly, if you have been charged with a felony, it is possible it reduced to a misdemeanor. However, your best possible chances of reduction are with an knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer.