What Is a Felony Charge?
In California, felonies are crimes that carry minimum prison sentences of 1 year and maximum fines of $10,000.
Most serious crimes are felonies. Examples include:
- Murder – Penal Code 187
- Attempted Murder – Penal Code 667/187
- Kidnapping – Penal Code 207
- Grand theft – Penal Code 287
- Carjacking – Penal Code 215
- Gross vehicular manslaughter – Penal Code 192(c)
- Assault with a firearm – Penal Code 245(a)(2)
Felonies are divided into two categories:
- A straight felony is a crime that can only be charged as a felony, never as a misdemeanor. Examples of straight felonies in California include murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
- A wobbler felony, on the hand, is a crime that may be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history. Domestic violence under Penal Code 273.5 is one example of a wobbler offense. The charge hinges on the nature of the abuse. If the offender inflicted bodily harm, they are charged with felony domestic violence. If they only unlawfully touched the victim, they are charged with a misdemeanor.
Whether you are charged with a straight felony or a wobbler offense, there will be many opportunities to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and argue for charges to be reduced or dropped. You should speak with a Los Angeles felony attorney from our firm as soon as possible to discuss your next steps.
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Common Types of Felony Cases We Handle
With more than two decades of experience, the legal team at the Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling has successfully handled a broad range of felony cases, including:
- Violent crimes (such as manslaughter, murder, robbery, assault, and forcible rape) – California Penal Code 187/192
- Domestic violence and child abuse – California Penal Code 273.5/273(d)
- Weapons crimes(such as carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a gun without proper licensure, or a felon possessing a gun) – California Penal Code 417
- Drug charges – Health and Safety Code 11350
- White-collar crimes (such as fraud, embezzlement, forgery, and counterfeiting) – California Penal Code 503/186.11
- Property crimes (such as auto theft, burglary, larceny, arson, and theft) – California Penal Code 496
Penalties for a Felony Conviction
Penalties for a felony conviction can vary widely. This is because judges usually have significant leeway to decide the defendant’s sentence. Here are the sentences for some common felonies:
- Murder – 25 years to life for first-degree murder, 15 years to life for second-degree murder and a maximum fine of $10,000
- Rape – 8-13 years in prison
- Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence – Maximum prison sentence of 6 years
- Kidnapping – 8 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Grand theft – Up to 3 years in prison
- Carjacking – Up to 9 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Assault with a firearm – Up to 4 years in prison
- Aggravated battery – Up to 4 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000
Understanding California’s Three Strikes Law
In California, when someone is convicted of a felony, their sentence is impacted by previous felony convictions. This is known as California’s Three Strikes Law.
If someone is convicted of a felony and has a previous “serious” felony conviction, they will receive double the standard sentence. The implications are even greater if the defendant has two prior felony convictions, in which case they will receive a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Yes. But not by the victim. Only the prosecutor is able to drop felony charges in California.
Yes. Felony cases can be reduced to a misdemeanor. During the pre-trial proceedings, the defendant may be given an opportunity to accept a plea bargain, which could reduce a felony to a misdemeanor.
Yes. Some defendants qualify for felony probation. Discretion to grant probation in lieu of prison time rests with the judge. A variety of factors go into the decision, including the nature of the crime, whether a weapon was used, and the defendant’s criminal record.
Generally, a felony stays on your record for life. It can only be removed in certain circumstances through a process called expungement.
In California, you may only qualify for expungement if:
- You served your probation;
- You did not serve time in state prison; or
- You served time in a state prison, but you would have served time in a county jail if you had committed the crime post-realignment under Proposition 47.