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Misdemeanor Penalties

Penal Code 19 PC - Misdemeanor Penalties in California 

California uses specific punishments for misdemeanor convictions, including fines, jail time, probation, and other penalties.

Penal Code 19 PC is the primary state law that details how misdemeanors are penalized. Notably, however, it's a general guideline for sentencing. Still, actual penalties that a judge imposes will always vary depending on the nature of the crime, your criminal history, and other factors.

In California, there are infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are minor offenses and are not considered a crime. Misdemeanors are more serious than an infraction but less severe than a felony.  

Penal Code 19 PC - Misdemeanor Penalties in California
California's standard penalty for a misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

The standard sentencing for misdemeanor offenses is up to six months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. However, a first-time offender will rarely face jail time. Also, most misdemeanor cases are settled without going to a trial.

Penal Code 19 PC says, “Except in cases where any law of this state prescribes a different punishment, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.

Simply put, if convicted, you can receive a fine, jail time, or both. Still, there are various penalties based on the state's laws. Sometimes, you might also be ordered to pay restitution and complete community service hours.

In other cases, you might receive probation instead of fines and jail time. Suppose you are a first-time DUI offender under vehicle Code 23152 VC. In that case, you will typically receive probation and must complete DUI school and a driver's license suspension.  

Sometimes, you might be eligible for a diversion program, such as first-time drug possession charges defined under Health and Safety Code 11350 HS. Once you complete the program, your criminal charges will be dismissed and sealed. 

What is a Misdemeanor Crime? 

A California misdemeanor crime is less severe than a felony but more serious than an infraction. Under the law, misdemeanors are categorized into standard and gross misdemeanors, also called “aggravated.”  

  • A standard misdemeanor is the most basic type, such as petty theft, shoplifting, vandalism, disorderly conduct, driving on a suspended license, public intoxication, trespassing, and drug possession offenses.
  • A gross misdemeanor is more serious than a standard and could carry higher penalties, such as domestic battery, DUI, reckless driving, and violating a restraining order.

What Are the Most Common Misdemeanors?

The most common misdemeanor offenses in California include the following: 

  • Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC - Domestic Battery,
  • Penal Code 273.6 PC - Violating a Restraining Order,
  • Penal Code 459.5 PC – Shoplifting,
  • Penal Code 484(a) PC - Petty Theft,
  • Penal Code 415 PC – Disturbing the Peace,
  • Penal Code 240 PC – Assault,
  • Penal Code 242 PC – Battery,
  • Penal Code 602 PC – Trespassing,
  • Penal Code 647 PC - Disorderly Conduct,
  • Penal Code 647(f) PC – Drunk in Public,
  • Penal Code 314 PC - Indecent Exposure,
  • Penal Code 647(b) PC – Prostitution,
  • Vehicle Code 23152 PC - Driving Under the Influence.

What Are Wobblers and Wobblettes?

Some California crimes can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, known as a “wobbler, ” including the following:

  • Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC – Assault with a Deadly Weapon,
  • Penal Code 459 PC - Second-Degree Burglary,
  • Penal Code 417 PC – Brandishing a Weapon,
  • Penal Code 503 – Embezzlement,
  • Penal Code 487 PC – Grand Theft,
  • Penal Code 273.5 PC - Corporal Injury to a Spouse,
  • Penal Code 422 PC - Criminal Threats,
  • Penal Code 368 PC - Elder Abuse,
  • Penal Code 243.4 PC - Sexual Battery.

Suppose you are charged with a gross misdemeanor. In that case, the penalty could include up to one year in county jail. Sometimes, misdemeanors could be reduced to an infraction, known as a "wobblette," such as disturbing the peace, driving without a license, and criminal trespass. There will be no jail time if you are charged with an infraction.

What Are the Alternative Sentencing Options?

A judge has the discretion to impose lesser penalties for misdemeanor cases. Often, rather than sentencing jail time, they will assess other alternative sentencing options, such as the following:

  • Probation can be granted instead of jail time, which allows a defendant to keep living in the community while following the terms and conditions set by the court, such as attending counseling, completing community service, or refraining from certain activities. Any failure to meet these conditions could result in a probation violation and being sent to jail. Misdemeanor probation is called "summary" or "informal" probation.
  • The judge might order restitution in a misdemeanor case that caused harm to a victim. This payment is intended to compensate a victim for any losses or damage due to the crime. Restitution is different than paying a fine. Notably, both fines and restitution may be imposed.

What Are the Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction?

Notably, a misdemeanor conviction in California could have long-term implications beyond the initial penalties. Some common examples include finding it difficult to find employment, housing, or obtain a professional license. 

Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction

Further, a conviction could affect a person's immigration status and eligibility for certain public benefits. While misdemeanors don't carry the same penalties as felonies, some strategies exist to defend against the charges or negotiate lesser penalties. 

Our California criminal defense attorneys can help you obtain the best possible outcome and avoid the maximum penalties. We know how to navigate through the complex legal process. 

Early intervention into your case by our law firm can impact the outcome. We are well-known in all Los Angeles County criminal courthouses. Many defendants are eligible for diversion programs that could result in a case dismissal,

For example, a typical diversion program is for first-time drug possession defined under Health and Safety Code 11350 HS. Perhaps we can get your charges reduced or dismissed. Maybe we can negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of charges in the first place. You can contact our law firm by phone or through the contact form for a free case review. Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles, California.

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