The California Penal Code divides criminal offenses into three categories – infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Misdemeanor offenses are more serious than infractions and less serious than felonies.
Under California law a misdemeanor is an offense that is punishable by jail time of no more than one year. The most common examples include petty theft, shoplifting, DUI without injury, domestic violence, simple assault, disorderly conduct, and drug possession.
If you are facing misdemeanor charges in Orange County, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you. A misdemeanor conviction can not only harm your reputation, but also affect your career and personal life to a great extent.
At Paladin Legal Defenders, we have a team of exceptionally qualified criminal lawyers who have more than 60 years of experience in handling misdemeanor and felony cases. No matter what kind of charges you are facing, we can represent you, defend you, and take steps to protect your interests, rights, reputation, and freedom.
What Are the Penalties for a Misdemeanor Offense in Orange County?
The penalties for a misdemeanor charge in Orange County depend on the crime that is being charged.
A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine (up to $2,000) and jail time (up to one year).
What You Need to Know About Punishment for a Misdemeanor Offense
Generally, a misdemeanor offense is punishable by jail time of up to one year. However, California law makes an exception to this rule by requiring individuals convicted of misdemeanors to spend no more than 364 days – not 365 days, which is the case with most other states – in jail.
Sentencing Alternatives for Misdemeanor Offenses in Orange County
One of the key things you should know about a misdemeanor conviction in Orange County is that even if you are sentenced to jail, you might not actually have to serve time, as the criminal justice system does offer some alternatives to a jail sentence.
If you are a first-time offender, you might be sentenced to summary or informal probation instead of jail time. It allows you to serve your sentence without going to jail, as long as you comply with the conditions imposed on you. The conditions for a summary probation can include:
- Completing community service
- Taking classes and participating in programs (especially for DUI and domestic violence offenses)
- Paying restitution to the victim, if there is a victim in your case
- Wearing an electronic monitoring device
House arrest is also a common alternative to a jail sentence – particularly for non-violent misdemeanor offenses. It is an arrangement which allows you to serve your sentence at your home, rather than in county jail. The best part is that even if you are under house arrest, you might still be allowed to go to school or work, buy groceries and other essential items, participate in court-mandated programs, perform community service, and go to your medical and dental appointments.
As is the case with probation, a house arrest arrangement also requires you to comply with a number of conditions, which might include:
- Wearing an electronic monitoring device at all times
- Reporting to the probation officer on a daily basis, weekly basis, or as mandated by the court
- Not leaving your home during curfew times
- Submitting to random drug tests
- Not going to any place that you are prohibited from visiting
- Not meeting anyone you are prohibited from meeting
A diversion program is generally considered the best sentencing alternative as it could help keep your record clean. You can enter a diversion program without having to plead no contest or guilty. If you complete the program successfully, the charges against you will be dismissed and you will no longer have a criminal record.
On the other hand, if you fail to complete the program or violate any of the terms imposed on you, or if you commit another offense while participating in the program, the judge might order to resume criminal charge proceedings against you.
As part of the diversion program, you might be asked to undergo treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, take classes, and participate in programs, as mandated by the court. It should be noted that you might not qualify for a diversion program if you are charged with certain offenses such as domestic violence or any offense that requires you to register as a sex offender. Similarly, if you are a repeat or habitual offender, you may not be allowed to participate in a diversion program.
Wobbler Offenses in Orange County
A wobbler offense is one that can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense – depending on the discretion of the prosecutor. The prosecutor might take a variety of factors into account to determine whether an offense should be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. These factors include:
The Nature and Severity of the Crime
If the offense in question resulted in serious injuries to the victim, it is more likely to be prosecuted as a felony. Also, if the offense involved the use of a deadly weapon or a firearm, the prosecutor might decide to treat it as a felony instead of a misdemeanor crime.
The Age and Condition of the Victim
If the offense in question is a violent crime and if the victim meets one or more of the following criteria, it is likely to be prosecuted as a felony. The criteria include:
- If the victim is less than five years of age
- If the victim is over the age of 60
- If the victim is physically handicapped and is unable to defend themselves against any kind of physical aggression
- If the victim is mentally challenged
The Defendant’s Criminal Record
Your criminal record is one factor the prosecutor might take into account while deciding how a wobbler offense should be prosecuted. If you are a first-time offender or if it has been more than five years since you were last convicted of a crime, the prosecutor might decide to go easy on you and move forward with a misdemeanor charge.
On the other hand, if you already have a felony conviction on your record or if you are a repeat offender of misdemeanor crimes, the prosecutor might decide to charge you with a felony. Some misdemeanor offenses are required to be filed as felonies based on the defendant’s prior record.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You
Being represented by a capable and experienced criminal lawyer is your best chance to avoid jail time or avoid a conviction in a misdemeanor case.
A seasoned criminal lawyer can collect the evidence needed to counter the prosecution’s claims against you, look for inconsistencies or errors in the victim’s statement, and identify the weak spots in the prosecution’s case against you. Once they have all the information they need, they might be able to get the charges against you dropped or the case dismissed if possible. If not, they might convince the prosecution to reduce the charges to the extent possible under local and federal law.
For instance, if you are charged with a wobbler offense, your attorney might be able to convince the prosecutor to charge you with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense, your criminal defense attorney might be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce the misdemeanor to an infraction.
Charged with a Misdemeanor in Orange County? Choose the Right Criminal Lawyer to Defend You!
At the law firm, Paladin Legal Defenders, we have a team of seasoned criminal defense lawyers who are the best at what they do and are held in high regard by their peers and clients. Our team includes a former prosecutor and a former police officer, both of whom have first-hand knowledge of how criminal charges are brought against individuals and how they are prosecuted. It allows us to negotiate with the prosecution confidently from a position of strength and get the best possible results for our clients.
To discuss your misdemeanor charges with an experienced Huntington Beach criminal lawyer, call us today at 714-536-9988 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. All communication with our law firm will be confidential as part of the attorney-client relationship.
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