Definition of Felony Charges in California

Like most people charged with a felony, you may be unsure of whether you should retain an attorney, what kind of plea deal you may be able to get and what your chances of prevailing at trial are. As a former prosecutor with years of experience defending clients in the San Diego area, I get these kinds of questions from clients all the time. Below is what you need to know if you or a family member is facing felony charges.

What’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Generally, California criminal offenses are divided into two categories based on the potential term of incarceration: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors may be punished by a maximum term of incarceration in county jail not to exceed 1 year. Felonies are criminal offenses that are punishable by more than a year in state prison or county jail or even the death penalty.

When you’re facing the life-altering impact of a felony conviction in San Diego County, you cannot afford to simply trust a public defender and “see how it goes.” Although most public defenders are experienced and committed to their clients, they are typically buried under an enormous caseload and have very limited resources to adequately present an effective defense.

As a former prosecutor, I understand the tactics and evidence that the district attorney will utilize and develop effective criminal defense strategies designed to obtain a dismissal or acquittal of your felony charges. In cases where these are not viable options, I have a well-established reputation for thorough trial preparation that enables me to conduct plea negotiations from a position of strength.

I may even be able to obtain a reduction of the charges to a lesser misdemeanor offense that will carry far less severe consequences. I often seek diversion, house arrest, work furlough, or other alternative sentencing instead of jail or state prison.

What are the consequences of conviction?

Few experiences are as terrifying as being arrested and charged with a felony offense. These are by definition very serious offenses that can result in a prolonged incarceration in state prison or county jail. The consequences of a conviction include imprisonment, substantial fines, formal probation, a possible strike under California’s Three Strikes Law and more.

However, these criminal penalties for conviction of a felony offense are only part of the story. The impact of a felony conviction on your future can be far more devastating, including:

  • Damage to your family relationships
  • Loss of employment or financial aid
  • Permanent bans from a wide range of careers
  • Limitations on where you can live or visit, depending on the severity of the offense
  • Damage to your professional and personal reputation
  • Disenfranchisement of certain rights, such as voting and gun ownership
  • Denial of educational opportunities
  • Deportation or other loss of immigration privileges

What are examples of crimes that are felonies?

I have a broad range of experience and expertise handling felony offenses and can represent those accused of all felonies, including:

  • White-Collar Crimes: White-collar crimes are basically “financial paper type” crimes often involving allegations of unlawful financial arrangements or theft by deception. The government has become more aggressive in pursuing white-collar crimes in recent years, including cases of health care fraud and other allegations of defrauding the government. These allegations may affect people from all walks of life, including affluent and educated professionals. Common types of white-collar crimes I handle include:


    • Fraud
    • Embezzlement
    • Identity Theft
    • Forgery
    • Bribery
    • Perjury
    • Certain Computer Crimes
  • Violent Crimes: The threat of force or use of force against another characterizes this type of offense. Because these offenses can cause physical harm and/or severe emotional harm to the complaining witness, those charged with a crime of violence frequently receive sentences involving substantial county jail or state prison time. Among the violent felonies that I handle are the following:


    • Assault and Battery
    • Domestic Violence
    • Terrorist Threats
    • Gang offenses
    • Kidnapping
    • Murder
    • Manslaughter
    • Robbery
    • Stalking
    • Violation of Restraining Orders
  • Sex Offenses: Even the accusation that you have committed a sex offense can seriously impact your reputation. A conviction can entail lifetime registration as a sex offender, which can dramatically affect your future relationships and occupational opportunities, as well as limit where you can work, live and visit. I understand the serious harm that a sex offense can cause to your reputation, so I vigorously defend clients charged with crimes such as:


    • Rape
    • Child Abuse
    • Sodomy
    • Date Rape
    • Solicitation
    • Lewd Conduct
    • Indecent Exposure
    • Child Pornography
    • Child Molestation

    Other offenses that may be felonies under California law for which I provide effective criminal defense include:

    • Weapons Offenses
    • Three Strikes Cases
    • Grand Theft Auto (GTA)
    • Hit and Run
    • Theft Crimes
    • Insurance Fraud
    • Extortion
    • Vandalism
    • Receiving Stolen Property
    • Drug Crimes
    • Juvenile Crimes
    • Grand Theft

What defense strategies work against felony charges?

The defense strategies I employ depend on the type of offense that you are charged with and the specifics of your case. Some crimes, referred to as “wobblers,” can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, so I will seek to have the offense charged as the lesser misdemeanor or negotiate a reduction to the misdemeanor version of the offense.

I conduct a meticulous investigation, often utilizing professional investigators and expert witnesses to build successful defense strategies. A few general categories of defense strategies that my firm may employ include:

  • Exposing violations of your constitutional rights
  • Disclosing police misconduct
  • Challenging scientific analysis of physical evidence
  • Attacking the veracity, accuracy or truthfulness of witnesses
  • Challenging the reliability of eye witness identification
  • Suppression of key evidence
  • Providing scientific/medical or other expert testimony

Despite the potentially devastating impact of a California felony conviction, many people arrested and charged with felonies in San Diego County presume they don’t need to retain a private attorney. If you’re arrested for a felony anywhere in the greater San Diego area, always assert your right to remain silent and to have an attorney present before you speak with the police.

If you have questions after reading this, I invite you to schedule a free case evaluation to understand your charges, the consequences of conviction and your most viable legal options.