Criminal offenses are serious matters. However, in terms of charges and convictions, crimes are primarily distinguished according to their nature and accordingly, to their severity.
Lesser crimes, so to speak, are misdemeanors, whereas the more serious type of crimes are felonies. While there are crimes that can be both misdemeanors and felonies, the difference will lie in the severity of the crime. For instance, theft can be a misdemeanor if it is deemed to be petty. Stealing a pack of gum from a corner store would be a misdemeanor. In such a case, the value of the good stolen would likely be minimal, resulting in minimal loss for the business owner. Moreover, the alleged perpetrator would not have harmed anyone in order to steal the pack of gum. However, if an individual were to allegedly break into a high end department store and steal multiple designer accessories and apparel, such a crime would likely be a felony because presumably, the value of the stolen goods would be very high, resulting in a considerable loss for the business owner. Crimes in which individuals are seriously or gravely injured are felonies. However, even within the designation of felony, especially when it concerns crimes resulting in physical harm or loss of life, the specific nature of charges depends upon factors such as whether the accused had the intent to harm or kill, or if the injury or death was the result of negligence or recklessness.
In addition to misdemeanors and felonies, there are also capital crimes. Capital crimes are, in fact, felonies, but they are crimes that are deemed to be so egregious that one’s conviction makes him or her eligible for the death penalty. Such crimes are typically those that particularly shock the conscience such as the especially cruel murder of a child or adult. There are also juvenile crimes. These are crimes that, as the name suggests, are offenses carried out while an individual is a minor. It should be noted, however, that not all minors are charged with juvenile offenses. Depending upon the nature of the crime, a juvenile older than fourteen years of age may be tried as an adult provided certain requirements are met.
Ultimately, perhaps the greatest distinction regarding various types of criminal cases is the breakdown of penalties if convicted. For a misdemeanor, a person can face fines, community service, among other things, but principally, one can only be incarcerated for a period of up to one year. However, for felony convictions, a person may be compelled to pay fines, as well as be subjected to other penalties, in addition to a loss of liberty for more than a year, with the ultimate potential penalty being execution. In order to competently present a defense against the charges that have been leveled against you, you should understand the differences in crimes, primarily concerning why certain offenses are deemed minor versus major, misdemeanor versus felony.
There are certain crimes that have been particularly controversial as of late, including those involving driving while under the influence. Increasingly, prosecutors are charging allegedly drunk drivers with multiple charges, when possible, and potentially more damaging charges, in part to convey a message that such crimes will not be tolerated. Moreover, crimes such as drug possession have been increasingly controversial and in the spotlight. This has been more so the case since nearby states such as Colorado have legalized drugs such as marijuana. Although there may be a number of users in the state of California, possession of the drug is still a crime and one that has been debated about in our very own legislature. As a result, laws have been in flux over the past few years, and this is something that our attorneys are qualified to understand, in addition to monitoring which laws have changed as well as how they have changed in order to best defend you.