The California law-enforcement community has always been tough on felony crimes, and statistics from the Office of the Attorney General prove that their approach to arrests and prosecutions have not changed in recent years.
According to the Criminal Justice Statistics Center, there were 306,024 individuals arrested on felony charges in 2017. Of these cases, 66 percent resulted in a conviction, and almost 20 percent of convicted felons were sentenced to imprisonment in a state institution.
If you were arrested for a felony, you need a strong felony defense lawyer to avoid becoming one of these statistics. Your best strategy to fighting the charges starts with retaining an experienced attorney who is dedicated to obtaining a favorable outcome in your case.
To learn more about our commitment to clients in criminal matters, please contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC,, APLC, in San Diego, California. We can schedule a free consultation with a felony defense lawyer who can review your circumstances and advise you on defense options.
Felony Classifications and Penalties in California
Many U.S. states have implemented a system that classified felonies based up severity, such as by lettered class or numbered levels. California takes a different approach, identifying crimes and designating punishment according to the specifics of the offense.
With the exception of offenses that are punishable by life in prison, there are three ranges for sentencing: low, middle, and upper (if problem is not granted). After a conviction, during the sentencing hearing, the judge will choose the level and issue the applicable sentence. In most cases, the court will use the middle term of sentencing. If there are aggravating circumstances, a person may get the upper term; for mitigating factors, the judge may opt for the low level.
For instance, California law provides that first-degree burglary may be punished by a prison term of:
- Low term at two years;
- Middle term at four years; and,
- Upper term at six years.
If a felony statute doesn’t indicate the term or imprisonment, the low, middle, and upper ranges are 16 months, two years, and three years, respectively.
Some offenses can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on how the prosecutor decides to pursue charges based on relevant circumstances. For first-time offenders and those convicted of crimes that don’t involve violence or outrageous conduct, there is a tendency for the wobbler to be a misdemeanor.
Grand theft auto is an example. It might possibly be charged as a misdemeanor if all you do is steal the vehicle; felony charges may apply if you steal a car and get into an accident.
California’s Three Strikes Law
The state’s rule on three strikes is intended to prevent individuals from becoming career criminals, i.e., habitual offenders. As the term suggests, a third conviction on certain crimes can result in a very long prison sentence. In California, you only earn a strike for particularly serious or violent felonies, such as:
- Sex crimes and sex offenses involving children;
- Burglary or home invasion;
- Kidnapping or false imprisonment;
- Various degrees of murder;
- Crimes where you possessed or used a weapon;
- Offenses that led to serious bodily harm for the victim;
- Arson and crimes involving explosive devices; and,
- Many more.
Expungement Options for Felony Convictions
If you were already convicted for a felony offense, you may have noticed the collateral consequences you endure even after you’ve served your time. Depending on the offense and your specific circumstances, you may face:
- Barriers to employment;
- Registration requirements as a sex offender;
- Implications for your immigration status;
- Removal or disqualification for business and professional licenses
- Ineligibility for certain grants or loans;
- Consequences for your rights as a parent, including child custody and visitation; and,
- Many more.
Your criminal history – including convictions for felonies and misdemeanors – does not go away. These matters remain part of your criminal record forever. However, you do have the option to expunge the felony conviction from your criminal record, a form of post-conviction relief that erases the matter for most purposes.
Advantages of Expungement
The benefits of getting your felony expunged are that the disposition of the case may not show up in a background check. In addition, you won’t have to disclose the information if requested by an employer, in most cases.
Eligibility for Expungement
There are strict qualifications that apply to you as an individual, as well as rules on what types of felonies qualify for expungement. In general, you’re only eligible if:
- You didn’t serve time in state prison for the offense, or served time in state prison for a crime that would now be punishable by jail time;
- You’re not facing current criminal charges for the same or a different offense;
- You’re not on probation for a criminal conviction; and,
- You are not currently serving a sentence for a crime.
The second stage of the analysis focuses on the crime that you were convicted of committing, since certain offenses make you ineligible for expungement. For the most part, they include serious sex crimes involving children.
The Process for Expungement
You have successfully completed your probation term, you can file a petition for California expungement. There can be challenges in completing the forms and other stages of the process, so it’s wise to work with an experienced expungement lawyer. After filing the petition, you’ll get a hearing date on to expunge your felony conviction, and you must notify the prosecuting attorney at least 15 days prior. You must also attend the hearing and present your position in the court designated by law.
Contact an Experienced Felony Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Circumstances
For more information on defense options and expungement of felonies in California, please contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, to set up a no-cost consultation with a felony defense lawyer. Our team has more than 35 years of combined experience fighting on behalf of clients in adult and juvenile criminal matters, in both state and federal court.
We represent clients throughout Southern California from our offices in San Diego, and we’re prepared to fight for your rights.