What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
In California, a misdemeanor offense carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in county jail. Typical misdemeanor offenses include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, petty theft, hit and run, possession of drug paraphernalia, and delaying or obstructing a peace officer in the performance of their duties.
A felony is a crime more serious than a misdemeanor, in which the punishment may include a state prison sentence or other punishment tailored to the severity of the crime. Typical felonies include embezzlement, drug crimes, rape, child sex crimes, assault with a deadly weapon, residential burglary, and domestic violence with substantial injuries.
Do I need to go to court on my criminal matter?
It depends upon the county where the offense is being heard. Typically, most counties in California do not require a criminal defendant to be present on misdemeanor cases. Domestic violence and multiple-DUI defendants may need to appear for the first court date but typically not beyond that. For felony cases, defendants do need to be present for all court dates.
How do I choose a criminal defense attorney?
The first place to start when hiring an attorney is by asking for referrals. Friends, colleagues, and family members who were happy with the representation they chose can give you an unbiased opinion of that attorney. The State Bar of California website has a list of specialists in criminal law broken down by county. Criminal law specialists have significant experience handling criminal law matters, including legal research, legal writing, and jury trials. They have also been vetted by judges and other criminal attorneys.
Once you have a list of two or three lawyers, schedule a consultation with them. Be prepared to ask questions related to your matter and at the end of your consultations, the attorney you feel most comfortable with is probably the right choice for you. To schedule a consultation with the Law Firm of Pilchman & Kay, PLC, call (949) 558-0042.
How long will it take to resolve my criminal matter?
The time it takes to resolve a criminal law matter depends upon the complexity of the case, the background of the defendant, and the type of offer made by the district attorney. Most misdemeanor cases are usually resolved within one year, but most felonies could take a bit longer. Don’t worry; it is not a bad thing if the case takes longer. In fact, most criminal defense attorneys will tell you that the longer the case takes to resolve, the better the outlook for the defendant.
What if I can’t afford to hire an attorney?
In criminal law, defendants who cannot afford an attorney may be appointed a public defender at their arraignment. The judge will have you fill out a financial declaration to determine your eligibility. If you qualify, the judge will appoint the public defender at your first court appearance.
Do I have to speak in court?
This is a common question and the answer depends upon if you appear at an arraignment with a private attorney or if you are seeking the assistance of the public defender. If you have a private attorney, the attorney will speak on your behalf. All you may be asked to do would be to answer simple questions by the judge relating to continuances of the proceedings. If you appear at your arraignment without an attorney, the judge will have no choice but to speak to you directly. Keep in mind, the judge should not ask you questions about the facts of your case.
What if I receive a call or visit from a police officer or investigator?
Law enforcement officers do not reach out to people unless they are investigating a crime. If you receive a business card on your door or a phone call from a police officer, do not call back until you have consulted with a criminal law attorney. We can provide a free consultation. Contact the Law Firm of Pilchman & Kay, PLC at (949) 558-0042.
I got charged with a criminal offense. Am I going to jail?
This depends on the type of crime charged and your criminal history. Most misdemeanor cases do not require jail, but if jail is ordered there are many alternatives. Work release, electronic monitoring, pay-for-stay jails, and community service are ways of avoiding actually going into the jail facility. Jail sentences are more common with felonies, but again, you may seek the same alternatives mentioned above.