If you have been arrested for a crime in San Fernando, CA, you are likely overwhelmed while considering how to proceed. There may be concerns about ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the process, especially as the police and prosecutor conduct their investigations. The threat of imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines makes navigating the legal process even more complex, as the stakes are incredibly high as you attempt to find the ideal outcome for your case.
Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney should be your first step if you or a loved one is accused of a crime or arrested. They can help explain the process and take over the legal aspect, allowing you to return to your life as much as possible. The Law Offices of James E. Silverstein has over 20 years of experience with creating customized legal strategies in circumstances that are too important to leave to chance. We can examine the evidence against you, then assist you with making informed decisions about your future.
Three Types of Crime
Understanding the situation you are in begins with understanding the severity of the charges against you. There are three main different levels of punishable offenses in the California Penal Code:
The least serious offense is an infraction, which will not create a criminal record or lead to jail time or probation. Most crimes in this category are violations of traffic laws, administrative regulations, or municipal codes. Speeding tickets and noise violations are common examples of infractions. The punishment for infractions is typically a fine or points on your driving record, though more serious infractions may result in community service. You have the opportunity to appear before a judge, but you are not entitled to a jury trial or court-appointed counsel.
More serious than an infraction, but less serious than a felony, a misdemeanor conviction will result in a criminal record and will have different levels of penalties, depending on the severity of the crime. Examples include vandalism, disorderly conduct, and trespassing. Generally, misdemeanors will result in jail time and a fine. However, additional penalties like being unable to own a firearm and registering as a sex offender may also result, depending on the crime. Before you can be punished for a misdemeanor, you have the right to a jury trial in front of a judge and a court-appointed attorney. Misdemeanors can sometimes be pleaded down to an infraction.
A felony is the most severe type of crime and carries the heaviest penalties. Felonies will become a permanent part of your criminal record. Generally, a felony conviction will result in at least one year in jail. Examples of a felony include robbery, arson, and the sale of a controlled substance. Having a felony on your record will affect many areas of your life and can hinder your ability to find housing, employment, or even your right to vote. It may be possible to plea down a felony charge to a misdemeanor.
A less common type of crime is known as a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the prosecutor’s judgment. Examples of wobbler crimes include domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon, and forgery.
Possible Outcomes of an Arrest
After you are arrested, there is a wide range of potential outcomes for your case. There are many possibilities where your case is resolved before it proceeds to trial. Retaining a skilled criminal defense attorney is one of the most effective ways to find a favorable outcome for your case. They can potentially help:
- Get Your Charges Dismissed
If there are glaring issues with your arrest, or other potential problems that would hinder the progression of your case to a conviction, it is possible for your charges to be dismissed. Examples of why your charges could be dismissed include:
- The state failed to prove its case.
- Your rights have been violated.
- There is no legal basis for the charge.
- Reduce Your Charges
If new evidence arises that undercuts the current charge, or the state determines that they lack enough evidence to support the more severe charge, the charges against you may be reduced. Getting a charge reduction can help significantly lower the potential criminal penalties that you face, especially if the charge is reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
- Negotiate for a Plea Deal
Plea deals are beneficial for prosecutors and defendants both, as it removes the need for the court to hear and decide on the case. It also lowers the potential punishment faced by the defendant. The defendant and their family are also able to avoid a potentially lengthy and difficult trial.
If your case progresses to a trial, and you intend for your guilt to be determined by a jury, there are three common potential findings:
If the defendant is acquitted unanimously by the jury, they have been found not guilty of the crime for which they are accused. This does not necessarily mean that the defendant was found innocent but that the prosecutor was unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty.
If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the prosecutor was able to prove to the jury the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the defendant has been found guilty, they will proceed to the sentencing hearing for those counts unless a judge grants the defendant’s motion for a new trial per PC 1181.
- Hung Jury
In a hung jury, each member of the jury was not able to reach a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty. If even one jury member does not agree with the rest, a hung jury arises and the defendant retains the presumption of innocence. In the event of a hung jury, there are three outcomes: a dismissal of the case, a retrial with a new jury, or a plea bargain for a reduced charge.
Choosing the Right Criminal Defense Attorney
When you are looking for a San Fernando criminal defense lawyer, the Law Offices of James E. Silverstein is ready to meet your needs. Our team proudly provides criminal defense representation for our clients, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you effectively navigate the legal process. Contact the Law Offices of James E. Silverstein today to begin fighting your criminal charges.