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Misdemeanor charge typical for petty theft and other minor crimes

Understanding what constitutes a misdemeanor charge versus a felony charge may be a little confusing for some California residents. While the process of an arrest and criminal trial may be somewhat similar for both kinds of charges, the potential penalties are vastly different. The information shared below will focus on what types of crimes -- such as petty theft or vandalism -- may garner a misdemeanor charge, how this sort of alleged crime is commonly processed and the potential penalties is a conviction is secured.

The list of crimes that would fall in the misdemeanor category is fairly extensive. A few examples would be petty theft, some DUI cases, domestic violence and vandalism. The circumstances surrounding each of these instances will determine whether or not a charge is elevated to a felony.

Those who are arrested for a minor crime are typically detained in a local jail where it will be determined if official charges will be filed. If filed, the accused will either be released if bail is posted or released with the promise to attend a scheduled court hearing. If no charges are filed, the individual will be released from custody.

Those whose cases move forward to a court hearing will be made aware of the formal charges against them, informed of their rights and given the opportunity to obtain legal counsel. After that, a plea is typically entered, and the case moves forward toward trial. A lot can happen between an arraignment hearing and trial, including time for discovery or investigation, entering pre trial motions or, if desired, changing the entered plea.

Once a case goes to trial, a defendant, alongside his or her legal counsel, will be able to address any criminal accusations in a way that fits his or her best interests. If a conviction is obtained by prosecuting attorneys, the potential consequences for a misdemeanor charge in California include probation, minimal jail time and fines. Even though a misdemeanor -- such as petty theft -- is generally considered a minor crime, having one on a personal record can have an impact on current and future employment prospects and family and/or work life. While fighting these charges may seem difficult, there are number of legal options that may be able to help resolve the situation.

Source:, "Midemeanor Cases", Accessed on April 24, 2015

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results