If you are arrested for a misdemeanor in California you may wonder if it is worth the effort to hire an attorney to defend you. You may believe that a misdemeanor arrest or conviction may not be a big deal or that it may not have a significant negative effect on your life. It is true that misdemeanors are generally less serious offenses than felonies. Misdemeanors generally carry lighter sentences and criminal consequences than felonies. However, misdemeanors can have serious non-criminal consequences.
If you are arrested and/or charged with a crime in California you should speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. This is true even if you believe that the penalties associated with a misdemeanor conviction are minor.
Collateral Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction in California
We understand that if we are convicted of a crime there will be a punishment assigned by the court. If, for example, you are convicted of a misdemeanor shoplifting offense, you could be sentenced to perform community service, placed on probation, assessed a monetary fine, or even sent to county jail for up to 6 months. You may think that once you have successfully completed your sentence – whether that is 100 hours of community service or 6 weeks in jail – you have paid your debt to society. While this is technically true, you may not have considered the non-criminal consequences that may follow. These non-criminal consequences, known as collateral consequences, are essentially added repercussions for breaking the law.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center compiles and maintains a database of collateral consequences for criminal convictions for each state in the country. In California, there are as many as 93 automatic/mandatory collateral consequences that may apply if you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense. Many of these collateral consequences involve reporting the conviction to professional licensing boards, restrictions on the ability to gain employment in certain fields (e.g., health care, secondary education, child care), notifying interested parties and revoking the ability to receive participate in certain government assistance programs.
Those are just the automatic consequences. The Justice Center reports that there are as many as 388 collateral consequences that may be applicable if you are arrested for any misdemeanor crime in California. These consequences may include ineligibility for unemployment benefits, ineligibility for Medi-Cal, denial of residence at a community care facility, revocation or denial of car insurance, and ineligibility for certain public assistance programs.
Consequences of a Criminal Record
In California, if you are convicted of a crime it will be memorialized on your criminal record. This record can be viewed by potential employers, future landlords, banks, lenders, and schools. While a misdemeanor conviction on your criminal record may not be the end of the world, it can significantly affect your ability to get a job, land a new apartment, buy a home, or even enroll in school.
Convictions on a criminal record can be expunged, but the process for expungement can be time-consuming and costly. The best way to keep a clean criminal record is to avoid a conviction in the first place. An experienced criminal defense attorney can play a vital role in ensuring that you keep your criminal record free.
Why Hire a California Criminal Defense Attorney?
Hiring an attorney can significantly decrease the chances of being convicted of a crime. If you are convicted, hiring an attorney will significantly decrease the severity and duration of your punishment. Here are three reasons why hiring an attorney is the smart choice if you have been arrested/and or charged with a crime in California.
- Level the playing field. Prosecuting attorneys will try to take advantage of your lack of experience with the law. They will try to leverage your confusion, stress, and uncertainty into a plea bargain and/or confession. They may try to trick you into believing they have more information and evidence than they do. When you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney you level the playing field. The prosecuting attorneys who are trying to convict you are legal professionals. Doesn’t it make sense to have a legal professional on your side, too?
- Chain of evidence is important. In order to convict you of a crime, prosecutors will need evidence to support their argument. Evidence, however, can be tricky. It must be collected in specific ways and the government must keep detailed notes about who touches it, where it goes, and how it is handled. An experienced criminal defense attorney will make sure that the prosecution is not trying to use evidence against you that would not be admissible in court. If evidence that is obtained is the result of an illegal search or seizure, an attorney can fight to have it excluded.
- Information is power. The prosecution will put time, effort, and money into proving that you are guilty of a crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney will launch an independent investigation into your alleged crime and work to uncover information that helps to support your defense. The more information your attorney has, the better they can refute evidence offered by the prosecution.
Hiring an Attorney to Protect Your Future
If you are arrested and/or charged with a crime in California you should not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in San Diego. Our attorneys can help to:
- Reduce your chances of being convicted of a crime,
- Limit the severity of sentences imposed, and
- Decrease the potential for negative collateral consequences. An experienced criminal defense attorney will fight to ensure that you are given a fair and impartial hearing and that you do not fall victim to tricks the prosecution may try to use.
The criminal and non-criminal consequences of a misdemeanor conviction can be significant. The best way to limit your future liability is to put forward a powerful and persuasive defense. Contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC today to learn about how we can help to protect you and your legal rights.