What is a Felony?
Under California law, a felony is defined as any crime with a penalty of one year or more in custody. If the maximum penalty for a crime is less than one year, the crime is classified as a misdemeanor.
Felonies are the most serious type of crime you can be charged with. There are different levels of felonies, which each carry different prison terms. Regardless of which type of felony you are charged with, it is extremely important that you invoke your right to remain silent and contact your criminal defense attorney for help.
What are the Penalties If You Are Convicted of a Felony?
In California, a felony offender can typically be sentenced to one of three definite terms of confinement. The judge has discretion to choose the term of imprisonment from the three sentencing options.
The three ways a felony can be sentenced are:
- Low term sentence
- Medium term sentence
- High term sentence
The amount of time in custody for a low term, medium term, and high term felony varies depending on the unique charge. The amount of prison time for a particular crime is usually listed by statute. For instance, the crime of Rape has a low term sentence of three years, a medium term sentence of six years, and a high term sentence of eight years.
If no prison terms are listed by statute for a particular felony, a catch-all sentencing statute (PC 1170) will likely apply. This provides low, medium, and high term prison terms for many felonies. These terms are 16 months, two years, or three years, respectively.
Even after release from prison, felonies usually come with an additional period of community supervision known as “parole.”
What Factors Can Impact a Felony Sentence in California?
When the judge is sentencing a felony offender, they will look at the list of definite prison terms provided by law. Then, they will examine mitigating and aggravating factors at play in the case.
For instance, if someone was seriously injured, this aggravating factor may result in a high term sentence. On the other hand, a mitigating factor (such as nobody being injured) can help push a sentence towards the low term.
A criminal record can also lead to years being added to a sentence. For instance, under the Three Strikes Law, someone with two felony convictions can face a sentence of 25 to life if they are charged with a new serious felony. Additionally, a prior felony conviction can add five years to any of the sentence terms (this is known as an enhancer).
Sometimes different types of penalties, such as steep fines and felony probation, come into play at sentencing. These alternatives can sometimes be used to reduce the amount of time spent in prison, but not everyone is eligible for probation.
If you are facing more than one felony charge, you could also be facing additional time if you receive consecutive sentences. A consecutive sentence is a sentence in which you serve one sentence in its entirety, followed by the sentence for a different crime afterward. This is different from a concurrent sentence, where the clock starts running at the same time for multiple convictions.
Of course, only your lawyer can properly advise you about the specific penalties you are facing. Every felony charge is unique, so make sure to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer for help understanding your charges.
What are Some Common Felonies in Los Angeles?
There are many different felonies under California law. Some of the felonies commonly charged include:
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Rape and other sex crimes
- Murder / homicide
- Sale of a controlled substance
- Assault with a deadly weapon
All felony charges need to be taken very seriously. You must take full advantage of your constitutional rights, including the right to counsel, to fight the allegations against you.
What is a Wobbler?
In California, certain crimes can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. This is called a wobbler. Only some felonies are wobblers.
The judge can also reduce a wobbler from a felony to a misdemeanor — if mitigating factors are present. They can do this upon a defense motion at the preliminary hearing, at sentencing, or after you have successfully completed felony probation.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help
Now you know more about felonies in Los Angeles, CA. If you are facing felony charges, contact a criminal defense attorney for help. An attorney will help you understand the nature of your charges and build a defense against them. They may even be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have a wobbler charged as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Or, they can fight for your rights at trial.