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Defending a Felony Charge in California


For the past twenty-five years, I’ve been defending people who have been charged with felonies across Los Angeles county.  Obviously, if you can avoid a felony, that’s probably one of the first considerations you want to look at.  A lot of crimes are wobblers, which means they can be reduced down to a misdemeanor and eventually dismissed off your record if you get probation and of course, you do everything that you’re supposed to.  So, that’s probably the number one thing we look to do if someone’s charged with a felony — to try to get it down to a misdemeanor or even try to fight the case if the evidence is questionable and we have a good chance of a not-guilty verdict.  Otherwise, we’re going to be in a plea bargaining situation as it relates to your felony matter.

The problem with felonies is they come with a lot of ramifications.  You can’t vote.  You can’t ever own, use or possess a weapon or bullets as long as you live with a felony on your record and a lot of times the prosecutors want jail time or even prison time if somebody gets convicted for a felony.

Felony Cases are the Most Serious

I get asked all the time, what’s the difference between a felony, a misdemeanor and an infraction  and the dividing line and the differences is nebulous to be honest with you, but obviously a felony is the more serious of the three, comes with more ramifications and obviously going to impact you the most.  A misdemeanor is still a crime but it’s a low-grade crime and it’s obviously not quite a serious as a felony, whereas an infraction is typically some sort of a traffic offense, something less than a misdemeanor, not a crime and you obviously want to have that if you had your choice between anything.

But when it comes to defending felony charges, one of the first things we have to do is see if you have a defense, see if your case went to trial whether you have a chance and a theory to be found not-guilty.  If you would, then that would drive the investigation, that will drive how we prepare for the case — preparing it in order to block the prosecutors from being able to meet their elements of the crime and get the not-guilty verdict.

If on the other hand, we realize you are going to be convicted of some sort of a crime based on the evidence they have, then again, we’re looking to try and avoid that felony.  If we can’t avoid the felony, then we’re looking to try to set things up so you can earn a misdemeanor at some point.  Again, as long as the case is not a wobbler and not a straight felony.

If it’s a straight felony, there’s going to be no way to avoid getting the felony conviction unless you can convince the prosecutors to let you plead to a lesser charge that’s not a straight felony.  So, if you have a felony case after you get past the hurdle of whether it’s going to be a felony or a misdemeanor, then you’re looking at, jail time, prison time and whatever terms and conditions the prosecutor and judge are going to want, because a lot of times if you get put on probation you could still get jail time anywhere from zero to 365 days in the county jail.

Fortunately, right now our county jail — whether you’re charged with a felony or misdemeanor — you’re serving a very small percentage of the time in Los Angeles because of overcrowding.  In fact, you really can’t say how much you’ll serve on a sentence because the sheriffs basically are the ones who are determining when to let people go and if they have a formula, it doesn’t seem to be based on something that they’re willing to share with the public.  So, you start to scratch your head whether they really do have a formula.

County Jail Overcrowding

So, if you’re convicted of a felony in Los Angeles, typically you should expect to serve no more than 50% of whatever time you get.  If it’s a violent felony, you’re supposed to serve 85% of it and if it’s a serious felony, you’re supposed to serve 80% of it.  But again, all those numbers are relative because the county jail has the authority and the ability to let you go earlier if they deem in their judgment that it’s necessary in order to protect their deputies from having too many people in custody and not being able to deal with them all or to make sure that their jails are safe and not overcrowded or even to make sure that the inmates are treated right and not jammed together because there’s too many of them in there.

These are all considerations that are going on right now in LA county and have been going on for many years now and I don’t know if there’s an end in sight unless they’re going to build a new jail.

So, if you’ve got a felony matter you’ve got to get to an attorney like me.  We’ll sit down.  We’ll talk about it, we’ll figure out where you kind of fall in the gamut of felony cases, what we can do, what angles we can take.  We get together a mitigation package and submit that to the prosecutor.  I then go in and speak to the boss about the case and try to get you the result that’s fair and that makes sense under the circumstances of your case, and then of course protects your rights, your reputation and your freedom.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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