Unlike other states that have set penalty ranges for different “classes” of felonies, California takes an approach that prescribes three possible prison sentences for each felony offense. Whether you receive the lower, middle, or maximum sentence will depend on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest.
To illustrate, let’s look at an example:
Suppose you have been arrested and charged with first-degree burglary. The California Penal Code roughly defines burglary as entering a locked building, vehicle, or boat with the intent to commit larceny or any other felony offense. Burglary involving an “inhabited” dwelling (meaning that the dwelling is currently someone’s home, whether they are home at the time of the offense or not) is a first-degree offense that is charged as a felony.
Under Section 461(a) of the California Penal Code, the possible prison sentences for first-degree felony burglary are:
- Two years
- Four years
- Six years
Compare this to an offense such as felony battery resulting in serious injury (California Penal Code Section 243(d)), which has possible prison sentences of two, three, or four years.
What if My Offense Doesn’t Have Sentencing Options Listed?
While the California Penal Code (along with other Codes, such as the Health and Safety Code which prescribes the penalties for marijuana-related offenses) specifies the potential prison sentences for many individual offenses, it fails to do so for others. If the law does not specify the potential prison sentences for your alleged offense, how much time could you end up spending behind bars?
The answer appears in Section 1170(h)(1) of the California Penal Code. This section states:
“Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.”
Paragraph (3) provides that individuals who have prior convictions for serious and violent felonies must serve their sentences in state prison instead of county jail.
Criminal Fines for Felony Convictions in California
In addition to jail and prison time, the California Penal Code provides for significant fines for felony convictions as well. These fines can either be instead of or in addition to your term of incarceration. While some criminal offenses have specific fine amounts attached, Section 672 of the California Penal Code imposes a maximum fine of $10,000 where no other amount has been specified.
Note that if you are convicted of a crime that results in economic loss, the judge may order you to pay restitution to the victim as well (California Penal Code Section 1202.4(a)(1)).
California Felony Probation
In cases where a conviction is unavoidable (i.e. there is clear evidence that you committed the crime and no complete defenses are available), your defense strategy may need to focus on mitigating the punishment for your crime. One way to do this is to seek probation in lieu of incarceration. In California, felony probation is also known as “formal probation” (California Penal Code Section 1203). Formal probation terms are typically three to five years, and in order to avoid incarceration you will need to remain in full compliance with the probation conditions prescribed by the judge.
Schedule a Free Criminal Defense Consultation with Attorney Lance Daniel
If you are facing criminal charges in California, contact attorney Lance Daniel to arrange a free, confidential consultation. With more than 25 years of experience, Mr. Daniel has helped numerous clients either avoid conviction or mitigate the consequences of their felony convictions. To find out what defenses you may have available, call (888) 704-3696 or request your free consultation online now.