People often have questions and concerns following an arrest or criminal charge. Answers to some of the most commonly asked questions include the following:


What is the difference between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

There are two main classes of crimes – misdemeanors and felonies.  People commonly ask what the difference is between a misdemeanor and a felony, and the potential punishments associated with each.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are crimes that are generally punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or a county jail term of one year.  Common examples of misdemeanors include (but are not limited to): Petty theft, simple assault and battery, marijuana possession, some domestic violence charges, prostitution, and DUI.

The following events typically occur when someone is alleged to have committed a misdemeanor:

  1. Arrest- When a person is accused of a misdemeanor they will be arrested and held by law enforcement. When this occurs, three things may happen:
    • No charges are filed and the person is released;
    • The person is charged and posts bail/bond and is released or the person is released on his or her own recognizance (“O.R.” release) until arraignment in court; or
    • The person is charged, but cannot post bail/bond and is not released on his or her own recognizance, and remains in custody until arraignment in court.
  2. Arraignment- The arraignment is a defendant’s first appearance in court if they are charged with a misdemeanor. At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of the charges filed against him or her; advises the defendant of his or her constitutional rights; and, if the defendant cannot afford a private attorney, that they have the right to a public defender.At arraignment, the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. In general, these pleas have the following effect:
    • Not Guilty: The defendant denies the charges filed against him or her and the case continues to the pretrial hearing. The defendant is either released on his or her own recognizance, or the court sets bail and the defendant is remanded to the custody of the Sheriff.
    • Guilty: The defendant admits that that he or she committed the crime and is sentenced by the court. Sentences may include county jail time, probation, fines, community service, participation in rehabilitative programs, or some combination of these punishments.
    • No Contest: The defendant does not contest (or challenge) the charge and the result is the same as a guilty plea, except that the conviction resulting from the plea cannot be used against the defendant as evidence of liability in a civil suit.
  3. Pretrial Hearing – If the defendant pleads “not guilty” at arraignment, a pretrial hearing is set.  At the pretrial hearing, the defense attorney and prosecutor exchange information such as police reports, witness statements and other evidence. The attorneys may also file pretrial motions challenging the charges or seeking to exclude certain evidence. At the pretrial hearing the defendant may also choose to change his or her plea from not guilty to guilty or no contest.
  4. Trial (by Jury or by the Court) – If the defendant does not change his or her plea to “guilty” or “no contest,” the case proceeds to a jury trial (or a trial without a jury if the defendant chooses).  If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, the defendant is released and cannot be tried again for the same crime. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the defendant will be sentenced either immediately or at a later hearing

Felonies

Felony crimes are punishable by a state prison term or death.  Common examples of felonies include (but are not limited to): Robbery, murder, manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, felony fraud, some sex crimes, some domestic violence offenses and possession for sale of certain drugs.

The following events typically occur when someone is alleged to have committed a felony:

  1. Arrest - When a person is accused of a felony they will often be arrested and held by law enforcement. When this occurs, three things may happen:
    • No charges are filed and the person is released;
    • The person is charged and posts bail/bond and is released or the person is released on his or her own recognizance until arraignment in court;
    • The person is charged, but cannot post bail/bond and is not released on his or her own recognizance, and remains in custody until arraignment in court; or
    • The person is charged and is held without bail (this may occur in various serious felony cases or if the defendant is on probation, parole or is not a lawful U.S. citizen)
  2. Arraignment - As with a misdemeanor, the arraignment is a defendant’s first appearance in court. At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of the charges filed against him or her; advises the defendant of his or her constitutional rights; and, if the defendant cannot afford a private attorney, that they have the right to a public defender.At arraignment, the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. In general, these pleas have the following effect:
    • Not Guilty: The defendant denies the charges filed against him or her and the case continues to the pretrial hearing. The defendant is either released on his or her own recognizance,” or the court sets bail and the defendant is remanded to the custody of the Sheriff.
    • Guilty: The defendant admits that that he or she committed the crime and is sentenced by the court.
    • No Contest: The defendant does not contest (or challenge) the charge and the result is the same as a guilty plea, except that the conviction resulting from the plea cannot be used against the defendant as evidence of liability in a civil suit.
  3. Preliminary Hearing - Following arraignment, the defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, in order for the case against the defendant to move forward, the prosecutor must show that there is a sufficient suspicion that the defendant committed the crime alleged. This standard is much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to convict the defendant at trial. If the judge finds sufficient evidence at the preliminary hearing to meet this standard, the defendant is “held to answer” the felony charges and is “arraigned on the information” (see below) in the trial court.
  4. Arraignment on the Information – The “Information” sets forth the charges against the defendant that passed the preliminary hearing and will be at issue at trial.  At the arraignment on the information, the procedures at the initial arraignment occur again. The judge informs the defendant of the charges filed against him or her and the defendant again enters a plea of not guilty, guilty or no contest. If the defendant pleads “not guilty,” the case is then set for trial.
  5. Trial (by Jury or by the Court) - If the Defendant does not change his or her “not guilty” plea to a “no contest” or “guilty” plea the case proceeds to trial.  At trial, the defendant has the right to be tried by a jury of his or her peers who will weigh the evidence presented and reach a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty.” (A defendant may waive this right and choose to have the judge, rather than a jury, hear the evidence and enter a verdict.) If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, the defendant is released and cannot be tried again for the same crime. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the defendant will be sentenced either immediately or at a later hearing.

I have been arrested for a DUI.  Will I have to go to jail?

There are many factors that are involved when an individual is convicted in a DUI case.  Prior convictions, criminal record, whether an accident or injury occurred in the case and other factors are all part of what may affect the sentence you receive.  In any DUI case it is crucial that you have legal representation from a San Fernando Valley DUI defense lawyer from the moment the arrest occurs.  In many cases it is possible to fight the charge altogether, or negotiate alternative sentencing.


I am being accused of a “gang crime”.  What affect will this have on my case?

California lawmakers have increased the penalties for gang-related crimes.  The penalties usually include longer sentences in state prison.  It is absolutely vital that you contact the Law Offices of Naderi & Weinrieb if this is your situation, as the firm has extensive knowledge in defending criminal cases that have been given this designation.


What if I didn’t commit the crime?

This situation is difficult, as the prosecutor believes that you did commit the crime.  There was enough evidence to arrest and charge you for the crime, and you will need to take action to fight for your defense.  There have been many innocent individuals who have ended up in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.  A strong criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Naderi & Weinrieb must initiate the actions to defend you at once.


My lawyer never calls me back.  What should I do?

At Naderi & Weinrieb, the policy is strict with regard to calling back clients and keeping them in the loop.  If you feel that you may need a new lawyer, contact the firm to discuss your case and determine what to do.


What makes the firm so unique?

The team approach to defense is the most unique and effective difference at the firm.  The group of experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Naderi & Weinrieb draws on a variety of skills and experience and this is put to use in any criminal case.  The client gets the benefit of the knowledge and direction of the team.


What can the Law Offices of Naderi & Weinrieb help me with?

Naderi & Weinrieb defends clients charged with any of the following types of criminal offenses:

Contact a San Fernando Criminal Defense Lawyer from the Law Offices of Naderi & Weinrieb when searching for a high quality, aggressive criminal defense law firm.