Understanding California Criminal Law: What Does “Felony” Mean?

Under the Criminal Law of California, a crime punishable by imprisonment of over a year is a felony. More serious felonies lead to incarceration in a state prison or a country jail to a death penalty sentence. Offenders of this crime with a previous record of two or more convictions can face up to 25 years in prison.

According to www.californiadefenselawyer.net, committing felony acts can lead to a life-changing punishment, and this is why hiring competent lawyers to represent you during the court trial is essential. A well-experienced and dedicated attorney can help you get a minimum sentence or negotiate a plea bargain that can reduce your case to a simple misdemeanor.

Types of felony crimes in California

The common felony charges in California include:

  • Rape according to Penal Code 261
  • Murder pursuant to Penal Code 187
  • Attempted Murder according to Penal Code 64/187
  • Robbery according to Penal Code 211
  • First-degree burglary under Penal Code 459
  • Kidnapping under Penal Code 207
  • Grand Theft under Penal Code 287
  • Assault with a Firearm under Penal Code 254 (a)(2)
  • Carjacking under Penal Code 215
  • Child Pornography under Penal Code 311.1
  • Child Molestation under Penal Code 647.6
  • Vehicular Manslaughter pursuant to Penal Code 192 (c)

Felony sentence and penalty

The criminal statutes of felony crimes fall under three terms – low term, middle term, or high term. The low term carries the least custodial time, while the high term has the most severe sentence. Most cases receive the middle term sentence (Penal Code 1170 b) unless aggravating circumstances and mitigating factors are present.

Some aggravating factors are possession of a weapon, violence or cruelty, inducement of a minor to participate, threatening the witness, intentional or planned crime, and prior convictions. The judge’s final verdict is also influenced by mitigating factors such as passive participation, great provocation, circumstances of duress or coercion, and lack of apparent predisposition.

If the felony statute does not have specific imprisonment terms, the judge based the prison sentence on Penal Code 1170 (h). Pursuant to the code, the judge can sentence the accused to 16-month, 2-year, or 3-year jail time. He may also impose a fine of up to $10,000.

Felony probation eligibility and conditions

The California felony laws allow judges to convert the sentence to formal probation. Felony probation aims to give offenders a chance to rehabilitate themselves and regain a law-abiding life. Formal probation usually involves up to one year of imprisonment in county jail, but in California, the convicted person can serve no to little jail time.

For non-violent felonies, the probation period can last up to two years. A three-year probation period can be applied to crimes such as grand theft, false personation and cheating, and embezzlement that involves an amount of more than $25,000. Violent felonies and crimes that do not specify the probationary range are not qualified for these probation limits.

A person under probation must comply with the terms and conditions like a monthly meeting with his probation office, counseling sessions, anger management classes, restitution, fines, alcohol, and drug tests, see California drug testing laws. Any violation can cause revoking the probation and sending the convicted person to prison to serve the maximum sentence.

Felony parole and collateral consequences of the conviction

California parole laws offer a chance for sentenced offenders to get out of jail earlier than their sentence tenure. To qualify for parole, the offender is serving his sentence in a California state prison and has completed or received an early release order. It comes with conditions and can be revoked by the judge in case of violation.

Convicted people who have already served their sentence or received probation or parole need to observe the following:

  • Disclose the conviction on their job applications, if needed
  • Not permitted to own or possess a gun for ten years and more
  • For sex crime conviction, the person should register himself as a California sex offender pursuant to Megan’s Law.

Takeaway

The legal process of felony charges can be complex and confusing, especially if it is your first-time offense. A reputable criminal lawyer is your best ally to get through this critical phase. Lawyers who are well-versed with felony laws can defend, guide, negotiate, or clear your criminal record with a dismissal paper.

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