If you’re facing a felony charge, your first call should be to a local criminal defense lawyer. A conviction for a felony offense will without a doubt negatively impact the rest of your life.

Basic Information

Felony charges are a class of crimes reserved for the most serious offenses.  They usually include a real possibility of prison or jail sentences depending on the crime.  Those who have suffered prior felony convictions may also be subject to mandatory minimum sentences, and under California’s Three Strikes law, certain violent, sex, and serious offenses can be punished much more severely depending on how many prior crimes of those classes the person has been convicted of.

Depending on a person’s record, the facts of the case, and the specific felony charge the person is accused of, felonies may sometimes be reduced to misdemeanors, dismissed, or plea bargained for a deal with less harsh penalties.  Because the consequences of a felony conviction may be very severe, where there may be a defense to the felony charge, setting the case for a jury trial may also result in a finding that the person is not guilty of the crime.

The Process

A felony charge, like a misdemeanor charge, usually begins with the arrest of the person.  Ordinarily the person would be entitled to post bail in an amount that would be calculated to ensure the return of the person for criminal proceedings.  In other words, the money you deposit, or your bail bondsman deposits is an incentive for you to not flee from “justice.”  This is the reason why ordinarily the more serious the crime (felony charge), the higher the bail amount will be.  Those who can afford to bail out are released from jail and are ordered to return for what is called an arraignment.  A bail amount may also be set or increased or reduced at the arraignment.

At the arraignment, the court will tell the person the charges the person is facing, advise the person of his or her rights, ask whether the person wishes to have a public defender appointed or hire his or her own attorney, and ask how the person wishes to plead.  The best time to hire a private lawyer is before the arraignment.  This ensures the person is represented at every stage of the prosecution.  The three most common pleas a person can enter are: guilty, no contest, and not guilty.  If the person pleads guilty or no contest, ordinarily the person’s case will be continued to a new court date for sentencing and in the meantime in many cases a probation report is prepared to determine the person’s suitability for probation.

If the person enters a not guilty plea, the person’s case is set for a preliminary examination, wherein the prosecution must establish that there is enough evidence for the case to go forward.  If the court finds there is sufficient evidence for the person to be “bound over,” the court will then set the case for a second arraignment.  After this, if the person wishes to fight the case, the defendant’s lawyer will set the case for trial.  This is an extreme distillation of the complicated court process and omits many more intricate proceedings which may be necessary depending on the circumstances.

What You Should Do

Felony charges are the most serious charges a person can face.  Consulting and hiring a local felony charge defense lawyer should be the first step of a person charged or the person’s family or friends.  You or your loved one may have a defense to the charge, or the evidence may be very weak.  A criminal defense lawyer can explain to you the law and how it applies to the facts of your case.  The Law Offices of Matthew S. Luzaich provides free legal consultations regarding your case, possible defenses, possible outcomes, and what steps to take.  We are a local Chico criminal defense law firm practicing in the counties of Butte, Glenn, Sutter, Tehama, and Yuba.  Call today for a free consultation.

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