Orange County Misdemeanor Lawyer
Misdemeanors are some of the most common crimes in the criminal justice system. The state uses these punishments to secure a smaller punishment for the offender to deter future offenses. However, if you are facing one of these cases, you need to find legal representation. An Orange County misdemeanor lawyer can help walk you through the case and get you a better outcome than if you went it alone.
At Barhoma Law, we have plenty of experience working on criminal misdemeanors and can use that experience to help you with your case. We can work with you to craft a legal defense that can give you a better chance of securing a not-guilty verdict.What Is a Misdemeanor in California?
Every state has a slightly different definition of a misdemeanor. In California, these are more minor crimes that come with a mandatory sentence of less than one year. Misdemeanors also carry with them the risk of fines.
While not as bad as a felony charge, misdemeanors are still criminal charges. A misdemeanor can stick with you for the rest of your life and harm your chances of obtaining future employment if your prospective employer conducts a background check.
Incarceration for misdemeanors happens in county jails rather than state correctional facilities.What Are Some of the Most Common Misdemeanors in California?
It is useful to examine some of the most common misdemeanors in California. These crimes are more minor than felonies, and many are non-violent in nature, though some violent crimes still may be charged as misdemeanors.Petty Theft
In California, petty theft covers any occasion when somebody steals something worth under $950. Petty theft charges usually come after someone shoplifts or decides to steal something that is lying out in the open that they have no legal right to take.
Petty theft typically occurs when the perpetrator is in a place where they have a legal right to be there. If you steal items while unlawfully on someone’s property, you may find yourself dealing with a burglary charge.
Many people often group theft and robbery together when discussing crimes, but they are distinct offenses. Robbery is a crime against a person, while theft is a crime against property. In a robbery, you use threats or coercion to force someone to give you something. Theft is simply unlawful taking, often when the victim doesn’t even know it.Simple Drug Possession
California has a reputation for treating drug possession seriously, with extensive sentences to a state correctional facility being commonplace. However, the state has become less harsh about punishing drug possession. Recent laws have made a first-time simple possession charge a misdemeanor in most cases.
Simple possession involves the defendant owning a scheduled substance that they should not be allowed to have. This covers most illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, PCP, and more. To qualify for simple possession, the police must find a small amount of the substance. If law enforcement uncovers a large quantity of drugs, they may move to charge you with possession with intent to sell, which is a felony.
While you may be dealing with a misdemeanor for a first conviction for simple possession, any subsequent charges will likely be felonies and carry even harsher consequences. This is why it’s important to fight when you’re accused of a misdemeanor, as they can count against you if you have another arrest in your lifetime.Simple Battery and Assault
Battery and assault are technically two different charges, but they are often charged together. Both of these crimes can also fluctuate between a misdemeanor and a felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime, prior history, and any aggravating or mitigating factors.
Assault can involve any sort of physical contact as well as credible threats of violence. The state can try you for assault without you making any contact with the victim as long as you made threats and positioned yourself in a way to cause harm. You may also run afoul of assault charges if you attempt to injure someone but fail. The attempt constitutes assault.
Battery is the physical part of an altercation. If you make contact with a victim, you’ll likely be looking at a misdemeanor charge as long as the incident wasn’t too serious.
Assault and battery can both be charged at higher levels, depending on the level of violence. If you use a deadly weapon while committing the acts or cause a severe injury, the state may look to increase the charge to a felony.Trespassing
Trespassing can occur whenever you are in a place where you have no legal right to be. For instance, you enter someone else's property with a “no trespassing” sign or hop a fence to get into a business’s restricted area. You may also be committing trespassing if you stay on someone’s property after they ask you to vacate the premises.
Trespassing is more common than you might think, and some people end up with a charge without knowing they’re committing a crime. California has plenty of non-public land that isn’t properly marked, leading to people entering the property without actually knowing they’ve left public land.Resisting Arrest
Resisting arrest conjures up images of a suspect getting into a fistfight with the police or trying to make an escape when law enforcement’s guard is down. While these situations are resisting arrest, the actual charge is much broader and can cover more ground than dramatic confrontations with the police during an arrest.
You can also find yourself in trouble for resisting arrest if you attempt to mislead law enforcement when they are looking for you. You may provide a false name or ID to get the police to leave you alone. While this may have short-term benefits, it will likely add a resisting arrest charge to your tally as well.
Even peaceful resistance can net a misdemeanor charge in Orange County. If the police try to place you under arrest and you passively resist by not cooperating or moving, they may have enough evidence to charge you with resisting.DUIs
DUIs are very common in California and are one of the leading causes of arrests in the state. The police can charge you with a DUI for operating a vehicle while under the influence of any drug or mind-altering substance.
Before arresting someone for a DUI, the police will conduct a field sobriety test and then place an individual in custody for a blood test. The test will determine their blood alcohol content and see if they are over the legal limit.
DUI penalties escalate with each subsequent arrest. While your first DUI may only result in probation, subsequent offenses will have harsher penalties. DUIs can even rise to the level of felonies with enough aggravating factors or previous charges.What Are Wobbler Offenses?
Some crimes in California are wobbler offenses. A wobbler offense is any offense that the state can choose to charge at a different level, depending on the facts of the case and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Typically, this involves a crime that fluctuates between a misdemeanor and a felony, but it also applies to crimes that wobble between non-criminal infractions and misdemeanors.
The prosecutor will decide how they want to charge an offense, and they will do this based on what’s most effective for each case. Typically, the prosecutor will look at several factors to make a determination, including:
- Severity: If the defendant allegedly used a deadly weapon or caused a severe injury, a prosecutor may choose to bump up the charges to a felony. In an instance where nobody got hurt and the damage was minor, they may stick to a misdemeanor charge.
- Prior record: If the defendant has a record of committing crimes, the prosecutors will often seek a felony for the increased penalties and jail time. First-time offenders are more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor and potentially avoid jail time.
- Age: Prosecutors will factor in a person’s age when determining how to charge them. Younger defendants may get more latitude and mercy than someone who is middle-aged and should know better than to commit the crime.
- Strength of the case: If the prosecution has a seemingly airtight case, they may feel comfortable pursuing a felony charge. Juries will put more scrutiny on a case that will lead to a felony conviction, and our legal system generally makes them harder for the prosecution to prove.
- Cooperation: A defendant who is willing to cooperate with law enforcement and does not cause any extra trouble may end up seeing more leniency from the prosecutor, who may charge their offense as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
- Risk of recidivism: If the prosecutor feels that the crime was a one-off incident, they may choose to charge it as a misdemeanor in good faith.
Additionally, judges can reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor if it is a wobbler at the preliminary hearing or during the sentencing. Judges have the authority to reduce a sentence as they see fit, and they will often look at the same mitigating and aggravating circumstances as the prosecutor does.
No matter which way a wobbler goes, you’ll want an Orange County attorney on your side who can advocate for you and explain your side of the story to the jury during the trial.
Some of the common wobbler offenses include:
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Statutory rape
- Child endangerment
- Grand theft
- Making criminal threats
Since misdemeanors are less severe than felonies, some people believe that they don’t need to take the charge seriously or treat it with the respect it deserves. However, misdemeanors are still criminal charges with serious penalties, and a conviction for one can have far-reaching implications for your life.
The most obvious consequence of a misdemeanor conviction is jail time. While it won’t be a protracted stay at a state correctional facility, a misdemeanor will net you up to a year in the county jail. Spending a year of your life in jail is intensely unpleasant, and it can easily happen when you don’t treat a misdemeanor as seriously as you should.
While misdemeanors don’t trigger California’s three strikes law or limit your voting rights and firearm ownership privileges, having a misdemeanor on the record could inadvertently affect those things later.
Judges and prosecutors look at any prior convictions when determining how to sentence someone for a crime, in the judge's case, and how to initially charge them, in the prosecutor's case. If you have a prior conviction on your record, you’re more likely to face a felony charge in the future, and any conviction for a felony will impact many of your rights.
A misdemeanor charge won’t be as disqualifying for future employment or finding housing as a felony, but it still isn’t something you want on your criminal record. A prospective employer can see that you have a misdemeanor on your file if they conduct a criminal background check, and it could lead to you missing out on a dream job.
Misdemeanors also often carry probation as part of the sentencing. This probation will put you under increased scrutiny and can lead to additional charges if you violate your probation terms.What Are Some of the Common Punishments for Getting a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors carry a variety of penalties, and you’ll want to speak with your Orange County misdemeanor defense attorney to see what you could be facing for your specific charge. However, some of the common punishments a judge sentences for a misdemeanor conviction include:
- Jail time: Serving time in the county jail is an extremely common outcome for a misdemeanor conviction. Judges cannot sentence you to a state prison for a misdemeanor charge. Your jail time must be less than one year for a misdemeanor.
- Probation: Judges may hand out probation instead of jail time or add a probationary period after you finish your sentence. During probation, you may have to submit to monitoring, and any further charges you have against you will have additional consequences. You’ll need to be careful while under probation, as one mistake can bring you right back to court.
- Classes: Depending on the nature of your conviction, the judge may sentence you to complete appropriate classes to curb any chance of recidivism. You may have to go to a drug and alcohol class. If you committed a violent crime, you may be required to attend an anger management class or counseling.
- Fines: Misdemeanors may carry fines, depending on the judge’s ruling. These fines typically sit at a maximum of between $1,000 and $2,000. Such fines can be sentenced in addition to jail time or as the only major penalty for your conviction.
- Community service: Some judges like to order community service for guilty verdicts in place of a fine. You’ll have to complete the mandatory service to fulfill the terms of your sentence. Failure to do so may lead you to more trouble with the law.
- Victim restitution: Some judges may order you to compensate the victim of the crime. For instance, if you stole something from the victim and the jury rules against you, you may need to repay the debt to the victim for what you stole.
While California has sentencing guidelines, judges have plenty of latitude in deciding what punishment to give for a crime. As long as the judge does not exceed the maximum allowed penalty, they can do whatever they see fit based on the crime.What Are the Common Defenses Against Misdemeanor Charges?
With such a wide array of potential offenses that may be charged as misdemeanors, it’s impossible to craft a standard defense against all these crimes. However, there are several common defenses that Orange County defense attorneys can use to help their clients avoid a lengthy conviction. Some of the most common include:
- Alibi: You can’t commit a crime if you weren’t at the scene when it happened. Proving that you have an alibi is not always easy, but it can greatly help you establish innocence. You can have a witness who can testify that they saw you away from the crime when it happened, or you can use phone or credit card records to show where you were at the time.
- Improper procedure from law enforcement: Police have numerous legal obligations that they must fulfill so that they do not violate citizens’ civil rights. Sometimes, police take things a bit too far or go with their gut when they should have evidence. If law enforcement discovers evidence using illegal methods, your attorney may be able to convince the judge to throw out the evidence and any subsequent information gained from the illegal evidence.
- Mistaken identity: Although many police procedurals might make you believe that a police lineup is a scientific process, they’re anything but. A police lineup can lead to false identifications at an alarming rate. Witnesses may not fully remember what they saw or what the perpetrator looked like, and they sometimes guess instead of definitively recollecting.
- Self-defense: Most applicable in violent crimes, your lawyer can showcase that you were only committing the act as a way to protect yourself. If someone attacks you in Orange County, you have the legal right to retaliate to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm. If the police don’t have the full story, they may assume that you began the conflict.
Yes. Having an attorney on your side gives you the most credible chance of avoiding a lengthy conviction and a misdemeanor on your criminal record. Although you face a less severe crime than someone dealing with a felony charge, misdemeanors are worth taking seriously. Having an attorney on your side is the easiest way to give yourself a fighting chance against the prosecuting attorney.Ways That an Attorney Can Help You
Your attorney can be a source of invaluable support in your case. Some of the ways that an attorney can help you include:Defend Your Rights
Your attorney can help you throughout the process. Although California has made strides to curb racial prejudice in the legal system, some defendants still have their rights violated. Your attorney can ensure that the prosecutors do not infringe on your rights and make sure you get a fair trial, regardless of your race or ethnicity.Calm Legal Representation
When you find yourself under arrest and charged with a crime, you’ll likely be full of mixed emotions. You’ll be at once angry, scared, anxious, upset, and depressed. In this shape, you’ll likely not be able to craft a compelling legal defense based on evidence rather than emotion.
Your attorney does not have the same emotional attachments to the case. They can come at your situation with empathy, but they won’t let emotions cloud their judgment. Your attorney can give you unbiased and objective advice on the situation and guide you on the right options.Negotiate With Prosecutors
While you may want to take the case to court, your attorney can be honest and give you an honest appraisal on whether that’s the most effective choice. If the prosecutor offers you a plea deal, you can confer with your attorney to see if they believe it’s a deal worth taking. Some prosecutors try to offer bad deals in the hopes that the defendant will be scared and immediately take them.Reduce Your Sentence
If you face punishment for the crime, your attorney can advocate for you during sentencing. They can try to present any mitigating situations to the judge to reduce any potential penalties you face.
Barhoma Law: Experienced Orange County Misdemeanor Law Firm
Getting a misdemeanor on your criminal record is not devastating, but it will have long-reaching consequences for you that you may not immediately realize. You shouldn’t ignore it or give up when facing a misdemeanor charge. Instead, you need an attorney to work with you.
At Barhoma Law, we have plenty of experience with defense and appeals. We’re ready to approach your case with understanding and build a legal defense that can give you a better chance of avoiding major punishments. Knowledgeable guidance with criminal cases is essential, so contact us today for a consultation and see how we can help.