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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

What Happens to First-time Felony Offenders in California? | Know More with Goss Law

A felony offense refers to a crime of severe nature, such as burglary, murder, arson, grand theft, and sexual assault, among many others. They may be punishable by up to 10 years or even life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of the criminal case.


However, under California law, a first-time offender may be able to avoid a prison sentence in lieu of probation. An experienced criminal defense attorney at Goss Law can provide the defendant with the support and guidance they need by reviewing their case, creating a strong defense, and fighting for their rights. They can help with questions like What are the exceptions to the statute of limitations in California?


What Happens to First-time Felony Offenders in California?

What Happens to First-time Felony Offenders in California?


Under California law, there are different punishments for first-time offenders, which may vary depending on the nature and severity of the crime.


A first-time misdemeanor offender may face up to six months of county jail imprisonment, a fine of $1,000 or more, or both.


On the other hand, a first-time felony offender may face up to three years in state prison, a fine of $10,000 or more, or a combination of both punishments. However, the judges have the authority to sentence the defendants to formal probation.


California Has a Three-strike Law


Goss Law has more information on what the 3 strike law in California is. Although the law mentions a jail sentence of up to 10 years for certain crimes, these periods can increase depending on prior felony convictions.


Under the California three-strike law, defendants who are convicted of three serious felonies may face between 25 years and life imprisonment for their fourth felony. What is the 3 strike law in California?


How Does the Judge Determine the Felony Sentence?


There are certain situations that could occur after a crime. If the defendant pleads guilty to the offense, they may face a sentence according to their plea bargain.


However, if they go to trial where they are found guilty, the judge will follow applicable laws to determine the felony sentence.


Determining the felony sentence may seem straightforward, but the process is more complex, and in some cases, the law may not have punishments prescribed for certain crimes. There are many factors that the judge must consider when sentencing the offender.


What Is Felony Suspended Sentence (Felony Probation)?


Under California law, the judge has the authority to give the defendant a suspended sentence, also commonly referred to as felony probation.


In cases where the judge grants felony probation, this action suspends the defendant's jail sentence or prison term if the defendant successfully completes the probationary period.


However, if the judge does not grant formal probation, the defendant must face one of three terms of imprisonment, and these include the following:

  • Low term

  • Mild term (default criminal sentence for a felony)

  • High term

The California Rules of Court Rule 4.414 help the judges determine whether or not they should grant felony probation to the defendant or sentence them to prison or county jail after a felony conviction.


There are certain factors that the judge must review, and these are as follows:

  • The nature of the criminal offense: There are certain factors pertaining to the criminal offense that the judge must consider, some of which include the use of weapons, the degree of monetary loss, the victim's vulnerability, and the circumstances of the crime.

  • The nature of the offender: Under the California Rules of Court Rule 4.414, the hearing judge must review the defendant's prior criminal history, their probation or parole records, whether or not they're willing to comply with the probation terms, the instructions of the probation department, and the likely impact of imprisonment on the defendant and their loved ones, among others.

In a criminal case where the judge sentences the defendant to life imprisonment, they may be able to offer them a suspended sentence under the supervision of a probation officer.


The court may also refer the case to the probation officer for their report (submission within nine days), which is crucial for balancing any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.


After reviewing the remarks, the prosecutor and the defendant's criminal lawyer in Sacramento may submit a statement to the court suggesting why a probationary period may be the best option, as opposed to life imprisonment.


Does a First-time Felony Offender Go to Jail in California?


Under California law, judges have discretion in determining the punishment for the defendant. Those convicted of a felony for the first time may receive probation instead of a jail sentence if they enter a guilty plea.


An important thing to remember is that there are wobbler offenses in California, which means that a felony could be a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the crime, prior criminal offenses, and other factors.


It is crucial for the defendants to reach out to skilled criminal defense attorneys to help them understand the California felony sentencing guidelines, build a strong defense and improve their chances in court.


How Can Criminal Defense Attorneys Help Defendants Facing First-time Charges for Felony Crimes?

How Can Criminal Defense Attorneys Help Defendants Facing First-time Charges for Felony Crimes?


Under the Federal First Offender Act, those who commit felony offenses for the first time in the state of California may be eligible for probation rather than jail time if they don't have prior convictions.


Since there are other factors as well that help the judges determine the punishment, it is crucial for the defendants to contact experienced criminal defense attorneys to prepare an extensive Statement of Mitigation for the court. This legal document explains why the judge should grant probation rather than sentence the defendant to jail time.


If granted probation, the defendant must successfully complete their time for the felony offense committed to expunge all charges.


Besides fighting the charges and convincing the courts to reduce the sentences, a skilled criminal defense attorney can provide guidance or information. They can advise the defendants on what they should or shouldn't do during the hearing or trial.


Schedule a Free Consultation with Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys in Sacramento


Those who are facing first-time felony offenses in Sacramento, California, must schedule a free consultation with experienced criminal defense attorneys at Goss Law.


The legal team can help provide information about the court process, review the case, and guide the defendants on the possible defenses.

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