Anyone who has been accused of committing a crime, is suspected of committing a crime, or has actually committed a crime in California may face prosecution. If the individual is found guilty, they may face minor punishments, such as fines, or more severe penalties, such as prison time.
California criminal law is enforced by city and town governments, as well as the state government. Federal criminal law, however, is enforced by the federal government.
Across the United States, most individuals who commit crimes face prosecution and punishment at the state level. Such criminal law includes prosecuting acts the state considers to be serious enough that they interfere with the peace of the community.
Federal criminal law is different in that it involves crimes that pertain more specifically to the federal government. This may include acts such as:
- Wire fraud
- Drug trafficking
- Attack on federal officials
- Mail theft
- Federal income tax evasion
Types of California State Crimes
In the state of California, crimes are either classified as misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by up to a year in prison, or in some cases, no prison time at all. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious and may include prison sentences of many years.
Felonies in the state of California may include the following:
- Aggravated assault and battery
Misdemeanor crimes in California include those such as:
- Reckless driving
- Possession of small amounts of drugs
- Public intoxication
- Petty theft
Anyone charged with a crime in California should immediately reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney, who can help them understand the possible consequences of the alleged crime and assist in their defense in court.
Is It Necessary to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney When Charged With a Crime?
Facing the criminal justice system in California is a challenging endeavor. Anyone who is under criminal investigation, or has been arrested or charged with a crime, should protect themselves by retaining the services of a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as they are able to.
Defense attorneys in California are a powerful asset for anyone accused of a crime. They speak to the prosecutor and the police on behalf of their clients, evaluate any evidence the prosecution has collected, help create a defense strategy that seeks the best possible outcome, and look out for their client’s best interests as they fight for them in court.
What Are the Basics of Criminal Defense?
Anyone who is charged with committing an act that is prohibited by California law is the “defendant” in court, whereas the state is called the “plaintiff.” The prosecutor represents the state’s interests and fights the case with the goal of obtaining a verdict that seeks the highest charges allowed by California law. In cases where the criminal case is under a local jurisdiction, such as a town or city, the plaintiff is still referred to as “the state,” as the locality is a division of the state government.
In the United States, the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to an attorney to represent them when their case is heard in court. Such counsel is known as a criminal defense attorney, as they are tasked with defending their clients against charges brought by the state. The state has the obligation to prove the allegations it makes “beyond a reasonable doubt” before the court. If the case is more serious, the defendant has the right to have their case decided by a jury.
A criminal defense case involves many factors that experienced defense attorneys deal with every day. Knowledgeable defense lawyers understand the details of each case and the court system, so it is vital to have legal representation to provide an aggressive defense against charges brought by the state.
Understanding the Criminal Process in California
There are several stages involved in the California criminal justice process. Every case is unique. The stages of the process may vary depending on the severity of the crime and the jurisdiction in which it occurred. Typically, however, the process includes the following steps.
- Either local law enforcement or California state law enforcement officials investigate the crime.
- A judge may allow investigators to seek evidence from a specific location by issuing a search warrant.
- Law enforcement officials seek further information by interrogating potential suspects and witnesses.
- If law enforcement has probable cause to determine that a crime was committed, they may arrest the individual they suspect of perpetrating the crime.
- Criminal charges will be filed by law enforcement officials against the individual suspected of committing the offense.
- The individual accused of committing the crime will attend an arraignment in court, where the charges against them are read, and they will be asked to plead not guilty or guilty.
- The defendant, as the individual accused of the crime is then known, may be kept in jail or released from custody while they await trial.
- While the trial is pending, the individual’s criminal defense attorney may try to negotiate a plea bargain. This is an agreement for the defendant to enter a guilty plea in exchange for lesser charges.
- If the prosecutor and defense attorney fail to reach a plea agreement, the case will need to be decided in a trial. Each side presents evidence of guilt or innocence to the judge or jury who will decide the case.
- Once the judge or jury considers all of the evidence in the case, they will reach a verdict.
- If the individual is found guilty, they have the right to appeal the verdict and ask for it to be overturned by a higher California court due to possible mistakes earlier in the process.
Trust the Counsel of a Knowledgeable Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges in California, a guilty verdict could result in severe consequences. The skilled criminal defense team at Aaron Meyer Law has the experience to explain your options and develop a comprehensive defense strategy. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.