There are three levels of charges when you have been arrested for suspicion of a criminal offense. But first, it is important to understand that just because you have been arrested and charged, does not mean that you have been found guilty or convicted. An arrest and a charge simply means that authorities have reason to believe it is more likely than not, that you are guilty of this crime. But, as the saying goes, you are guilty until proven innocent. After a charge, a jury must find you guilty, or you will have to enter a plea of guilty, before you can be convicted.
If you are convicted, it will be on one of three levels; infraction, misdemeanor, or felony. To understand the different levels and their differences, we will go through some examples.
An infraction is the lowest level of criminal charges. These are minor offenses like running a red light, or making an illegal U-turn. These charges are often without damages to property, or injury to another person. The sentence generally is a fine that needs to be paid. There is no jail time, or probation. If you are to be charged, this is the best possible scenario.
A misdemeanor is the middle level of charges. It is more serious than an infraction, but it does not give rise to a felony. The differentiation between a misdemeanor and a felony is generally the level of damage or injury. The egregiousness of the crime and the intent will generally have an impact. If the damage to property, or injury is minimal, then it may be charged as a misdemeanor. For example, in a Los Angeles Hit and Run, if there is minimal damage to property, like scratching a fence or a fender bender, it will likely be charged as a misdemeanor. Similarly, a Los Angeles DUI without injury, or damage will be charged as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor generally involves probation and a fine, and can have a minimal jail sentence.
A felony is the most serious level of offense. It generally means extensive damage was done to property, or injury to person. For example, in a felony DUI, there is probably extensive damage to other vehicles like an accident, or injury to another person. Just like in a felony Los Angeles Hit and Run. A felony often involves jail or prison time, probation as well as a fine.
The three levels are not set in stone. Negotiation, argument and strong defense can reduce a charge to a lesser level, or even dismiss the case altogether. A felony DUI may be reduced to a misdemeanor, if proper argument is made, the case adequately prepared, and a strong argument made by your Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer. This is why it is imperative to retain a knowledgeable and experienced attorney like those at Hoffman & Associates. Having a legal professional in your corner can make the difference between a felony charge, a reduction of charges, or even a complete dismissal!