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What is a Misdemeanor Crime Under California Law?

Posted by Sam Israels | Dec 29, 2020

There are different levels of crimes in the state of California, including an infraction, misdemeanor and a felony, which is the most serious crime.

This article will review misdemeanor crimes and how criminal courts and prosecutors handle these types of cases.

What is a Misdemeanor Crime Under California Law?

A California misdemeanor is a crime where the maximum sentence is not more than one year in the county jail.

A misdemeanor is a crime where the maximum sentence is not more than one year in the county jail, including:

  • standard misdemeanor that carries up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine;
  • aggravated misdemeanor that carries up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

There are also some California crimes called a “wobbler,” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  The prosecutor will normally make their decision on how to file the case based on:

  • the circumstances of the offense, and
  • defendant's prior criminal record.

A misdemeanor crime is less serious than a felony crime and there does not carry any chance of receiving a sentence in a California state prison.

Any defendant who was convicted of a misdemeanor offense could be placed on probation by the judge for three to five years.

Misdemeanor cases in Los Angeles are normally filed by the City Attorney's Office, depending on where the crime occurred.

Once you are arrested for a California misdemeanor crime, the case will then proceed though the routine stages in the criminal process, including arraignment, bail hearing, pretrial, and trial.

It should be noted, however, the majority of misdemeanor cases never reach trial. They are successfully negotiated with a plea bargain between the defense lawyer and prosecutor.

In some situations, the defense lawyer can convince the prosecutor to reduce or even dismiss the case.

To give readers a better understanding on California misdemeanor crimes, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.

What Are the Most Common California Misdemeanor Crimes?

Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC – domestic battery

One of the most common misdemeanor crimes is domestic battery under Penal Code 243(e)(1).

Penal Code 240 PC – assault,

Penal Code 242 PC – battery,

Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC – domestic battery,

Penal Code 273.6 PC – violating a restraining order,

Penal Code 484 PC – petty theft,

Penal Code 647(b) PC – prostitution,

Penal Code 314 PC – indecent exposure,

Penal Code 647(f) PC – drunk in public,

Penal Code 415 PC – disturbing the peace,

Penal Code 602 PC – trespassing,

Vehicle Code 23152 VC – driving under the influence,

Vehicle Code 14601 VC – driving on suspended license,

Health and Safety Code 11350 HS – drug possession.

The routine penalty for a misdemeanor conviction is up to one year in county jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.

However, there are many misdemeanor sentences that will carry probation only and a fine or some type of community service hours. Some California misdemeanor convictions have fines up to $2,000.

What are Some Common California “Wobbler” Crimes?

As stated, a California “wobbler” is a crime that can be charged by the prosecutor as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Their decision is normally based on the specific circumstances of the case and defendant's prior criminal record. Some common “wobblers” in California include:

California Penal Code 422 PC – criminal threats

One of the most common types of a “wobbler” crime is criminal threats under Penal Code 422.

Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC – assault with a deadly weapon,

Penal Code 417 PC – brandishing a weapon,

Penal Code 273.5 PC – corporal injury to spouse,

Penal Code 422 PC – criminal threats,

Penal Code 368 PC – elder abuse,

Penal Code 343.4 PC – sexual battery.

If a “wobbler” is filed as a misdemeanor, the sentence can't include a sentence of more than one year.

If the “wobbler” is filed as a felony crime, it might be possible through a plea bargain to have it reduced to a misdemeanor, or through a motion to the judge.

Can I Get Probation for a Misdemeanor Conviction?

Can I Get Probation for a California Misdemeanor Conviction?

If convicted of a misdemeanor crime, you will typically receive probation with several conditions to follow.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime in California, the judge will typically grant probation and set several terms and conditions that you must follow, such as:

  • alcohol or drug classes,
  • counseling and group therapy,
  • community service hours with CAL-TRANS,
  • electronic monitoring or house arrest,
  • pay court fines,
  • pay victim restitution.

If your conviction is related to domestic violence, then the judge will typically issue a restraining or protective order against you that prohibits contacting the victim.

Also, a domestic violence conviction means you will lose your right to own or possess a firearm.

Collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction 

A misdemeanor conviction will also result in a criminal record that could been seen by any potential employers while conduction a background search.

A conviction will often result in disciplinary action for people who possess a professional license, such as:

  • doctor,
  • teacher,
  • real estate agent, or
  • attorney.

There are certain misdemeanor convictions that could result in mandatory requirements.

For example, if you are convicted of indecent exposure under California Penal Code 314 PC, you might be required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC.

Most California misdemeanor convictions can be expunged as described under Penal Code 1203.4 PC after you successfully complete probation.

Criminal Defense Lawyers for California Misdemeanor Crimes

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor crime, consult with our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to take a look at the details and options.

Criminal Defense Lawyers for California Misdemeanor Crimes

Contact Cron, Israels & Stark to learn how we can defend you.

Our defense team has decades of combined experience and the skills to effectively represent you against any type of charges.

We are also seasoned courtroom negotiators and might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or even get the case dropped.

Through prefiling intervention, it might be possible to avoid the formal filing of charges before court. This means early intervention into your case by our law firm can be important to outcome.

Our team of criminal lawyers are familiar with the local prosecutors and judges in the Los Angeles County criminal courthouses.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-rated criminal defense law firm that represents clients throughout Southern California, including LA County, Orange County, Ventura County, Anaheim, Simi Valley, Hollywood, Pasadena, Riverside, and San Bernardino.

We are located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. We also have an office located at 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Contact our office for a free case consultation 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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