An offense punishable by less than one year in county jail is considered a misdemeanor. Offenses punishable by a year or more in county jail are considered felony offenses. Some offenses can be punished as misdemeanors or felonies depending on various factors. These are called “wobblers.” Where possible, we will work to resolve felonies as misdemeanors, or to avoid criminal conviction on misdemeanor offenses.
We understand that appearing in court can be stressful. Except in domestic violence cases, most clients who are accused of a misdemeanor do not need to appear in court. Court appearances can be made by the attorney instead. The first hearing is an arraignment. During the arraignment, our attorneys will advise the court that the accused is represented by counsel and enters a plea—usually not guilty. After the arraignment, the case goes to pre-trial conference. During pre-trial conferences, our attorneys confer with the prosecutor and judge to resolve the matter prior to trial. In many misdemeanor cases, an individual might be eligible to address the underlying problems, like substance abuse or mental health issues which may result in no conviction at all and the matter being dismissed. Our goal is to look at the events that you faced which led to the charges and to address those.
In some cases, there might be a need to file certain motions, like a motion to suppress evidence that was illegally obtained, to have these motions heard before your case is resolved. Sometimes, filing a motion can result in a dismissal or negotiated settlement.
Sometimes, a case cannot be resolved prior to trial. If that occurs in a misdemeanor case, the trier or fact-either a judge or jury, will decide guilt or innocence after both parties put on their evidence. It’s very rare that a misdemeanor case goes to trial.
We aim to dismiss or settle most misdemeanor cases. By addressing underlying problems with either the case itself, or with behaviors that led to the accusations proactively rather than reactively, a matter can be handled efficiently, and often without a period of incarceration through either pre-plea or post-plea. Diversion simply means that there might be behaviors present that led to the accusations, like substance abuse, anger issues, or mental illness. By addressing these issues effectively during a misdemeanor case, dismissal of the action is possible if all the conditions agreed upon between the defense, the prosecutor, and the court have been met.
Where diversion does not apply, we aim to settle misdemeanor matters without any period of incarceration. The court can order a certain number of community service hours instead of jail time, or order that a fine or restitution be paid. Sometimes, the court orders a combination of community service and a fine. Each case is different, and we’d like to discuss your case with you.