What Is Considered a Felony in California?

In California, a felony is a serious crime that could result in years to life in prison, as well as up to $10,000 in fines. Some examples of straight felonies (felonies that cannot be argued down to misdemeanors) are murder, rape, drug sale, and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

There are certain crimes that are “wobblers,” which can be prosecuted as either felonies or misdemeanors. For instance, a wobbler offense of sexual battery could be punishable as a misdemeanor by up to 364 days in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,000 or as a felony by incarceration for 2, 3, or 4 years and a fine of $10,000. Other such wobbler offenses are assault with a deadly weapon, forgery, and vandalism.

Note – that violating a domestic violence protective order is a misdemeanor for a first offense but may be treated as a wobbler under some circumstances if they have prior convictions.

Work with a dedicated professional you can trust; contact Adams Law online or at (310) 975-7390 to schedule a free consultation today.

Felony Sentencing Options

Felonies are usually punished by a low prison term, middle prison term, or high prison term in either state or county jail. The duration of these terms will depend on the crime. For instance, a low prison term for felony burglary is 2 years, which could differ from a felony murder. Generally, a California offender receives the middle term, and courts in Los Angeles County are required to impose sentences on the lower end of the penalty range if no extraordinary circumstances are present. If aggravating factors are present, though, such as the use of a weapon or involving extreme violence in the crime, the judge may order a high term. Note that under the Public Safety Realignment Act, California requires that convicted felons serve their sentences in county jail rather than state prison, unless:

  • they were convicted of serious or violent felonies (e.g., murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, robbery, carjacking, firearms offenses);
  • they must register as sex offenders; or
  • their current convictions include a sentencing enhancement for an aggravated white-collar crime.

Additionally, California’s “three strikes” law establishes that defendants with prior convictions for serious or violent felonies must serve alternative, lengthier sentences in state prison if they have 2 or more prior convictions. Such an additional sentence could be as long as 25 years to life in prison, unless the current conviction isn’t for a serious or violent felony. Convicted individuals must also serve an extra 5 years as a sentence enhancement for each previous conviction for a serious felon.

Felony Probation

California judges have the discretion to convert all or part of a defendant’s sentence to formal (felony) probation. Felony probation is primarily meant to rehabilitate offenders so they can reintegrate properly into society. It allows offenders to serve most or all of their sentences under probation supervision rather than in physical custody. A sentence generally includes up to 1 year in county jail, but individuals sentenced to formal probation usually serve little jail time. Courts in Los Angeles County are required to grant probation in eligible cases without aggravating circumstances, and an experienced attorney can help ensure this option is obtained.

Be aware that probation requires the defendant to comply with certain conditions, such as:

  • monthly meetings with a probation officer;
  • counseling or therapy;
  • community service or labor; and/or
  • victim restitution payment;
  • drug testing (if applicable);
  • searches of their person or property with or without a warrant.;

Any violation of the probation terms will result in a return to prison to serve out the rest or entirety of the original sentence. If not otherwise specified, felony probation typically lasts 2 years for non-violent felonies, but it can last up to 3 years for grand theft, embezzlement, or false personation that involves property worth more than $25,000.

Contact Adams Law for Legal Representation Immediately

If you have been charged with a felony in California, you have a few sentencing outcomes depending on the nature of the crime and whether you have prior convictions. In any case, judges are generally required to order the lower-range sentence unless aggravating factors are present. An experienced lawyer like Attorney Eric Samuel Adams, Jr. can help you build a strong case for lesser jail time, such as by compiling evidence of mitigating factors that show you had little role in the alleged crime. Attorney Adams has obtained numerous dismissals for his clients charged with felonies as serious as murder, so you can trust that he knows how to navigate the criminal justice system in Los Angeles for you. At Adams Law, we provide clients with the courageous and compassionate trial representation they need to combat harsh felony accusations. We understand that your future hangs in the balance of the criminal justice system, so we will put up a tough fight against the prosecution, whether that mean arguing for mitigated charges, probation instead of jail time, or even a dismissal of the charge. In fact, LA native Attorney Eric Samuel Adams, Jr. has handled over 30 trials and has secured many dismissals for clients charged with murder even before going into the courtroom.

Schedule a free initial consultation with Adams Law online or at (310) 975-7390 to schedule a free consultation today.