San Francisco Criminal Defense Law Firms
California classifies crimes as infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. California is a death penalty state. If you have been charged with a crime, it may seem like the odds are stacked against you, but in most cases it is possible to get your charges reduced, if not dismissed altogether. One of the biggest mistakes defendants commonly make is giving up and pleading guilty because they feel like they have no hope of winning.
Read below to learn more about California Criminal Law.
Exercising Your Rights
When you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. All too often we hear the phrase “lawyering up” as a pejorative, as if there is something inherently wrong with exercising your legal rights. Do not fall into the trap of believing that innocent people have no need to exercise their rights. Studies estimate that anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 people are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes every year in the U.S.
When arrested, many people find it very difficult to remain silent. They believe that if they just give their side of the story the officer will realize they are innocent and just let them go. Unfortunately, it almost never works. Anything you say can and will be used against you, and there is nothing to protect you from statements that are taken out of context, misquoted, or even flat-out made up. The right to remain silent protects the innocent as much or more than those who are guilty of a crime.
Your right to an attorney is just as important. You need a criminal defense attorney to level the playing field, protect your rights, and deter the prosecutor from using illegal means to secure a conviction.
Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions
Infractions are crimes which are not punishable by jail time. You may receive a fine, community service, or both. Because an infraction does not carry jail time, you do not have the right to a court appointed attorney if you cannot afford to hire one. Of course, if you are unable to pay the fine or fail to complete your community service, you could be convicted of a misdemeanor and go to jail for violating the court order.
Misdemeanors are crimes which can carry a sentence of up to one year in a county or city jail, and up to $1,000 in fines.
Felonies can carry a sentence of imprisonment in a state prison, and the most serious felonies carry the death penalty in California.