The Misdemeanor and Felony Process

Orange County Felony Defense Attorney · Misdemeanor Defense Lawyer

The State Felony Crimes Process

A felony is defined under California law as any criminal offense for which the possible punishment upon a conviction is more than one year in the state prison or death. If you are under investigation for a felony crime or have been charged, the criminal justice system will seem complex, confusing and frightening. Understanding the process will help you cope with events over the coming weeks and months.

In general, the felony criminal justice process follows this basic timeline:

  • Investigation and/or arrest: After an arrest for a felony, the police cannot hold you in custody for more than 48 hours without formally charging you in court with a crime.
  • Booking: If you are arrested for a felony, the formal process begins with the booking in which you will be fingerprinted and your personal information will be entered into the criminal database.
  • Arraignment: The first appearance in court will be the arraignment. At the arraignment, you may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. You may also stand silent and the court will enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf. In all felony cases, you are required to attend this hearing.
  • Bail: After you enter your plea, your attorney will argue for release without bail or for reduced bail. Expect the prosecutor to argue for high bail or no bail if your case involves a violent crime. Bail is a payment required as an assurance that you will not skip out on a future court appearance pending trial. If bail is set, you will have the option of paying the full amount out of your own resources or using the services of a bail bondsmen.
  • Court date: If you enter a not guilty plea, court dates will be set. Under California law, you have the right to a preliminary examination within 10 court days of your arraignment. Upon release from bail, you will be free to return to your home, pending resolution of your case. If you are not released on bail or cannot arrange a bail bond, you will be held in custody in the county jail until your case is resolved. Although you are in custody, you are still considered innocent until proven guilty.
  • Plea agreement: The time between your arraignment and your next court appearances will be very busy for your defense attorney. The prosecutor will usually be willing to listen to options regarding a plea agreement. It is your defense attorney's responsibility to fight for the best possible outcome for you. Your lawyer will investigate and carefully examine the prosecution's case to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a jury to convict you. During this period, negotiations will take place to dismiss or reduce the charges or to reduce the possible sentence. Options for special programs that do not include time in custody will be explored. The vast majority of felony criminal cases are resolved without a jury trial. It is essential that your lawyer fight aggressively and seek a reduction of felony charges to misdemeanor charges whenever possible.
  • Trial: If you decide that you wish to take your case to trial or if the prosecutor will not accept a reasonable proposal to reduce the charge or the sentence, your case will proceed to a jury trial, during which the prosecutor and your attorney will examine the witnesses and argue their case. The outcome will be in the hands of 12 jurors. You will be required to be present in court during the trial. If you are found not guilty, you will be immediately released. If you are found guilty, you may be taken into custody. A felony conviction can later be expunged from your record unless you are sentenced to state prison.
  • Appeal: You have the right to appeal a conviction, based on irregularities committed by the prosecutor, judge or jury.

Federal Felony Offenses

The federal felony process can differ significantly from the state process. If you are under investigation or have been charged with a federal felony offense, speak with attorney Ron Cordova right away.

State Misdemeanor Crimes Process

A misdemeanor is defined under California law as any criminal offense for which punishment upon conviction is incarceration of one year or less in the county jail. Alternatives may be available for a possible jail sentence to be served on weekends over a period of time to allow an individual to maintain employment and meet family obligations.

The misdemeanor process is much like the felony process until the arraignment. In cases other than domestic violence, a person charged with a misdemeanor is usually released on his or her own recognizance and is allowed to leave the police station or sheriff's station after the booking process has been completed. A date will be set for the arraignment to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. Except in cases involving domestic violence, the defendant is not required to appear at the time set, but an attorney must attend the court hearing to enter a plea on the client's behalf.

  • Arraignment/not guilty plea: If you plead not guilty, a court date will be set for your trial. You may select a jury trial of 12 jurors or a court trial, in which the prosecutor and your attorney will argue the facts of the case in front of a judge.
  • Arraignment/guilty plea: If you plead guilty or no contest, the judge will usually impose a sentence immediately after hearing arguments from both sides.
  • Trial: A misdemeanor trial is usually presented before 12 jurors who decide your case based on the facts presented to them in court. If you are found not guilty, you will be free from further proceedings. A conviction for a misdemeanor may be expunged from your record upon successful completion of a period of probation.
  • Appeal: You have the right to appeal a conviction, based on irregularities committed by the prosecutor, judge or jury.

Learn More About the Misdemeanor and Felony Process

If you have been charged with a state misdemeanor or felony offense in Orange County or elsewhere in Southern California, call Irvine criminal law attorney Ron Cordova at 888-696-5790 or contact the office by e-mail as soon as possible.

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