Articles Posted in Criminal Defense Guidance

Many people are curious about a commutation of sentence, and what it actually means. Basically, there is no impact on whether a defendant is guilty; it is simply a reduction in the sentence given a defendant by the governor of the state. A type of clemency, a state’s governor may reduce a defendant’s sentence, for example from 20 years to 10 years, however the governor must receive a recommendation from the state parole board before he or she can grant a commutation of sentence.

When the imprisonment is the result of a federal conviction, the only person who may commute the sentence is the President.

In addition to a reduced prison term, a commutation of sentence may also result in court-ordered fines being reduced.

As seasoned Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, we understand that many people do not really know the difference between a misdemeanor and felony offense.  In California, there are also criminal offenses that are classified as “wobblers,” which simply means that the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, at the prosecutor’s discretion.

Generally speaking, misdemeanors are crimes that would be considered less serious than felonies, and are punishable by a maximum of one year in a county jail.  Felony offenses are those that are more serious, and incur penalties which include one year or more in state prison.

What are the most common crimes which are usually charged as misdemeanors?  There are really two categories of misdemeanor crimes, standard and aggravated.  Examples of standard misdemeanors include public intoxication and petty theft.  Aggravated misdemeanor offenses include simple assault, simple battery, and DUI (driving under the influence).  The criminal penalties for a conviction on a standard misdemeanor offense include fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of 6 months in county jail.

There are several misperceptions defendants have when going to Los Angeles criminal court, the most common of which we will reveal below.  Regardless of whether you have been arrested or charged with a seemingly minor offense, or something more serious that will potentially leave you facing severe criminal penalties if convicted, it is highly advised you seek the legal support of a seasoned LA criminal defense attorney.

Here are five of the most common misperceptions regarding Los Angeles criminal court:

1.  I won’t show up for court, and the issue will go away.  Not true – you should appear in court any time it is requested of you.  Failing to appear will likely result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.  These warrants remain in the computer systems of law enforcement agencies indefinitely, so it won’t “go away.”  In fact, there are times when a warrant may be revealed many years or even a decade after it was issued.  This could prove to be embarrassing, depending on your career and life at that point in time.

Nearly everyone has heard of field sobriety tests, regardless of whether you have been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.  Even those who have never faced the stress of possibly being arrested for DUI want to avoid field sobriety tests at all costs, simply because they have heard the horror stories and know that it’s possible to be arrested for something you’re not guilty of.

What you may not be aware of is that these tests, administered by police, are subject to highly unreliable results.  While no police officer would admit to someone he or she pulled over that the results of these tests are far less reliable than those of other tests such as breath or urine tests, the fact is the results are questionable at best.

The three common tests utilized in Los Angeles and throughout California each have their own inherent flaws; these tests include the one-leg stand test, horizontal gaze nystgamus, and walk-and-turn test.  Unless you are in the law enforcement or legal industry yourself or are affiliated with someone who is, you probably have no reason to know that the results these tests yield on a frequent basis are inaccurate at best.  Most drivers have no idea that the horizontal gaze nystgamus test is only 77% accurate – and it is the one of the three tests identified as the most reliable!  What does this mean for motorists?  That if stopped for suspicion of drunk or impaired driving, there is a 1 in 4 chance you will be found to be intoxicated.

In California, certain offenses are considered a “wobbler.”  This simply means that there are criminal code sections which make it possible for a prosecutor to charge and individual with an infraction or misdemeanor offense, or a misdemeanor or felony offense.  A felony charge is the most serious, incurring the harshest penalties for those convicted.  If your charge is under a wobbler, could it be good news?  We’ll discuss it below.

How does a prosecutor determine whether to charge the client with a misdemeanor or felony?

In wobbler cases, the prosecutor will determine whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony based on your criminal history, the specific details in your case, and other factors.  For example, if the crime is considered violent or severe, it’s likely the prosecutor will feel the crime deserves harsh punishment.  However, if it is a first offense and mitigating facts exist that would eliminate or lessen your responsibility in the crime, he/she may decide to charge you with a misdemeanor.

When you are accused of a criminal offense in Los Angeles or nearby counties of Orange, Riverside, Ventura, or San Bernardino, it’s important you take certain steps to ensure you’re doing all possible to obtain positive results.  Here are a few steps our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys recommend you take:

  • Act immediately to secure legal representation.  Do not put it off, as hiring the right lawyer is possibly the most important step you will take in protecting your legal rights, career, and freedom.  Consider such factors as the attorney’s level of experience, focus of his/her legal practice, and whether the attorney seems to be solidly in agreement with your goals.
  • Refrain from speaking with law enforcement or making statements.  It’s human nature to want to defend yourself, however it’s important you don’t when it comes to law enforcement.  Do not speak with the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department, loss prevention officers – anyone – without first speaking to your lawyer.  It is best to let your attorney speak for you, as he/she knows how to speak without putting your future and freedom at further risk by making statements which you may not realize yourself are incriminating.