Being charged with any crime can be a jarring experience. You may have many questions about the criminal justice process ahead, as well as what potential penalties and other consequences you face.

In California, you likely face either misdemeanor or felony charges. Many misconstrue misdemeanor charges as being not very serious. While felony charges carry steeper penalties, it is important to understand that both types of charges are serious and can affect your future, freedom and finances.

Potential penalties for misdemeanor charges

Misdemeanors can include disorderly conduct, shoplifting, vandalism, probation violations and more. Depending on the circumstances and the offender’s background, domestic violence and DUIs can also be classified as misdemeanors. Consequences of misdemeanors vary by the crime but can include up to six months or one year in county jail and payment of a fine up to $1,000.

Felony charges in California

A felony conviction involves more severe punishments. Crimes that can result in felony charges include violent offenses, sex crimes, burglary, a subsequent DUI offense after a prior conviction and more. Consequences of a conviction can include:

  • A prison sentence of over one year
  • Steep fines
  • The loss of the right to own a firearm and vote
  • The loss of access to government programs

Additionally, a felony conviction on a criminal record can complicate your future. Applying for employment, housing, educational institutions, loans and more can become difficult due to background checks.

Whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges, it is important to act quickly to guard against steep penalties or a conviction altogether. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney from the start can help you to understand your options as well as the process ahead.