A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. A person guilty of such an offense may face imprisonment in jail or prison for more than one year (even for life). And, in addition, they can be fined up to $10,000.
A few examples of a California felony include:
- murder, per Penal Code 187;
- rape, per Penal Code 261; and,
- the sale of a controlled substance, per Health and Safety Code 11352.
In contrast, a California misdemeanor is a crime that is less severe than a felony. The maximum sentence for these offenses is no more than one year in county jail. Offenders can also face a fine, but it is not more than $1,000.
A few examples of a California misdemeanor include:
- petty theft, per Penal Code 484;
- drunk in public, per Penal Code 647(f); and,
- prostitution, per Penal Code 647(b).
A separate type of offense under California criminal law is a wobbler offense. These crimes can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
A felony in California is a crime punishable by:
- more than one year in jail or prison; and/or,
- a fine of $10,000 (or in some cases more).
Depending on the crime, felonies can also result in life in prison or the death penalty.
Jail or prison sentences for a felony are sometimes dictated by California statutes. Other times, a judge may decide them depending on the facts of a case and the defendant's criminal history.
As an alternative to lengthy terms of imprisonment, a judge can sentence a felony offender to California formal, or felony, probation.
Some additional examples of a California felony include:
- lewd acts with a child, per Penal Code 288; and,
- vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, per Penal Code 192(c).
Misdemeanors, under California law, are less severe crimes than felonies. And, there are two types of misdemeanors – “standard” and “gross” or “aggravated” misdemeanors.
A “standard” misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
A “gross” or “aggravated” misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1000 or more.
Similar with felonies, a judge may award a defendant with probation. This type of probation is also referred to as “informal” or “summary” probation. Misdemeanor probation is granted in lieu of a jail sentence.
Some additional examples of a California misdemeanor include:
- DUI without injury, per Vehicle Code 23152(a) and (b); and,
- violating a restraining order, per Penal Code 273.6.
California wobbler offenses
A wobbler offense under California law is a crime that a prosecutor can charge as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
How the prosecutor chooses to charge these crimes depends on:
- the facts of the case; and,
- the defendant's criminal history.
A few examples of a California felony/misdemeanor wobbler include:
- elder abuse, per Penal Code 368;
- brandishing a weapon, per Penal Code 417; and,
- assault with a deadly weapon, per Penal Code 245(a)(1).