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What is a Felony Crime Under California Law?

Posted by Sam Israels | Dec 22, 2020

What is a Felony Crime Under California Law?

Felony crimes in California are described as any offense that can result in a maximum sentence of over one year in jail.

In California, any criminal offense that can result in a maximum sentence of more than one year is considered a felony crime. Also, anyone convicted of a felony crime in California can also be fined up to $10,000 and a judge has the option of imposing formal felony probation.

The two major classifications of California crimes are felonies and misdemeanors, which carry a maximum sentence of less than one year.

A felony crime is the most serious and in addition to a state prison sentence and large fines, a conviction will carry other serious consequences.

For instance, there are many felony convictions that carry an additional punishment under California's “Three Strikes” Law. Felony convictions also make it difficult for someone to secure certain types of employment and a professional license.

Under federal law, a convicted felon can own or have possession of a firearm or ammunition.

In order to give readers a better understanding of California felony crimes, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing a review below.

What is a “Straight” Felony in California?

What is a “Straight” Felony in California?

Some California crimes are a “straight” felony that can count as a “strike,” such as Penal Code 187 murder.

Under California law, there are some crimes called a “straight” felony, which means they can only be charged as a felony offense and will count as a “strike” on your record. Some common examples of straight felonies in California include:

  • Penal Code 187 PC – murder
  • Penal Code 261 PC – rape
  • Penal Code 459 PC – first-degree burglary
  • Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor
  • Penal Code 215 PC – carjacking
  • Penal Code 192(c) PC – vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence

A “straight” felony can't be reduced to a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of one of the serious felony crimes listed above, you will most likely receive a sentence in a California state prison.

What are Some Common Felony Crimes?

Any person charged with a felony offense in California will have a preliminary hearing where it must be shown the charges are supported by probable cause. Some of the most common California felony charges include:

  • Penal Code 211 PC – robbery
  • Penal Code 664/187 PC – attempted murder
  • Penal Code 207 PC – kidnapping
  • Penal Code 647.6 PC – child molestation
  • Penal Code 311.1 PC – child pornography
  • Penal Code 287 PC – grand theft
  • Penal Code 245(a)(2) PC – assault with a firearm

A defendant can challenge the charges at the preliminary hearing at the trail court with a California Penal Code 995 PC motion to dismiss.

If the trial court judge decides that was insufficient evidence to hold the defendant, then the criminal charges will be dismissed.

What is a “Wobbler” Crime?

In the state of California, there are many offenses called a “wobbler,” which means the prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as either misdemeanor or felony crime.

What is a “Wobbler” Crime in California?

Many California crimes are a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.

The prosecutor will consider some important factors in order to decide how to file the case, including the circumstances of the case and defendant's prior criminal history. Some of the most common California “wobblers” include:

  • Penal Code 459 PC – burglary
  • Penal Code 470 PC – forgery
  • Penal Code 273.5 PC – corporal injury to spouse
  • Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC – assault with a deadly weapon
  • Penal Code 243.4 PC – sexual battery
  • Penal Code 261.5 PC – statutory rape
  • Penal Code 422 PC – criminal threats
  • Penal Code 646.9 PC – stalking
  • Penal Code 271 PC – child endangerment

If you have been charged with a California “wobbler,” the preliminary hearing judge can reduce a felony case to a misdemeanor.

If you are “held to answer” on the felony crime, the judge will set another arraignment date and you will be legally required to personally appear in court and might have to post bail to secure release from custody.

What Are the Penalties?

The sentencing for a California felony crime include:

  • imprisonment at a state prison or county jail, and
  • a maximum fine up to $10,000.
What Are the Penalties for a California Felony Crime?

Sentencing for a California felony crime include time in a county jail or state prison and a fine up to $10,000.

It should be noted, however, the judge has the discretion to sentence you to formal felony probation in lieu of jail time.

The most serious felony crimes in California, such as first-degree murder (capital crime), a defendant could be sentenced to life in prison without parole, or even the death penalty.

California felony crime are typically punishable by imprisonment for one of three terms, including:

  • low term,
  • middle term, or
  • high term.

In some criminal statutes, it will dictate if a sentence can be served in a county jail or California state prison.

Most people convicted of a felony crime are sentenced to the middle term, unless the judge considers mitigating or aggravating factors that are presented to them.

Mitigating and aggravating factors 

For example, an “aggravating factor” could include whether a weapon was used to commit the underlying crime, or whether the felony crime was included violence or victim injuries.

“Mitigating factors” could include the defendant has little or no prior criminal record, or if they were only a minor participant in committing the felony crime.

What is Felony Probation in California?

In most California felony cases, a convicted defendant can be sentenced to probation for three to five years in lieu of spending time in jail.

What is Felony Probation in California?

In most felony cases, a defendant can be sentenced to probation for three to five years in rather than spending time in jail.

It should be noted that if a judge decides to grant probation in a felony case, they might order the defendant to first spend up to one year in county jail.

After they are released, they will be required to follow several terms and conditions of probation, including:

  • monthly meetings with an assigned probation officer,
  • drug and alcohol testing,
  • payment of fines and court fees,
  • community service hours,
  • anger management classes,
  • counseling and therapy sessions,
  • restitution.

In a situation where the defendant violates any terms of their felony probation, the judge has the option to revoke probation and send them to jail for the maximum sentence of their felony crime.

It's also possible that the judge could just increase the length off probation and impose stricter conditions.

Collateral consequences for felony conviction

Anyone who was convicted for any type of California felony crime will also several collateral consequences.

For example, a convicted felon will be prohibited from owing or possessing a firearm. Also, in certain sex crime convictions, a defendant might be required to register as a sex offender under California Penal Code 290 PC.

Criminal Defense Lawyers for California Felony Crimes

If you were accused of committing a felony crime in Los Angeles, avoiding a conviction is crucial to your future.

In a situation where guilt is not in doubt, then we will work on a strategy to minimize the consequences of a felony conviction. In many types of California felony crimes, probation can be an option, rather than jail time.

Criminal Defense Lawyers for California Felony Crimes

Contact Cron, Israels & Stark to learn how we can defend you against a felony charge.

You can increase your chances of receiving probation if you follow a specific defense strategy after you have been charged.

This would include making an agreement to participate in drug or alcohol treatment, anger management counseling, among others.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys could possibly negotiate with the prosecutor to get your charges reduced or even dismissed.

Also, through prefiling intervention, it might be possible negotiate with police and prosecutors to avoid the formal filing of charges.

Call our firm to review the details of your felony case.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm who represents clients throughout Southern California, including LA County, Ventura County, Orange County, Long Beach, and the San Fernando Valley. We are located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Contact our office at (424) 372-3112.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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