The American legal system has two types of cases: civil and criminal. Civil cases involve disputes between private individuals regarding responsibilities and duties. Conversely, criminal cases involve an alleged violation of criminal law that is prosecuted by the state. Most criminal cases involve intentional actions that are deemed dangerous or reprehensible to society.

What are Common Criminal Cases in California?

California is different than any other state. Accordingly, the most commonly prosecuted cases in California differ from other states. Below is a list of common criminal cases in California:

  • Drug Related Charges: These are the most common types of crimes committed in California. They have decreased since California legalized marijuana use and new legislation has made drug crimes that were previously felonies misdemeanors, but they still are the most common type of crime.
  • Assault and Battery: Depending on your county and the facts and circumstances surrounding the case, it can either be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • Theft: This can include petty theft and grand theft.
  • DUI: This can also apply to operating a bike or boat while under the influence in addition to driving under the influence.
  • Sex Crimes: Sex crimes can either be misdemeanors (such as prostitution) or felonies (child molestation).
  • Burglary: This crime occurs when someone enters another’s property for the purpose of stealing, regardless of if they are successful.

Also, as a border state, California deals heavily with immigration and border-crossing complaints. These are often criminal in nature, such as when illegal drugs are smuggled into California through international borders.

What is California’s “Three Strikes” Sentencing Laws?

California’s “Three Strikes” sentencing law was enacted in 1994. Pursuant to the Three Strikes law, a defendant who is convicted of a new felony who has previously been convicted of two or more violent crimes or serious felonies will have a state prison term of at least 25 years to life. It’s based on the principal in American baseball where once you hit three strikes, you’re out!

“Serious” or “violent” felonies include residential burglary, robbery, kidnapping, sex-offenses like rape and child molestation, and any offense with a weapon. California is one of a number of states that impose the “Three Strikes” rule, including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and South Carolina.

What are the Steps of a Criminal Case?

In general, criminal cases have the following steps.

  • Arrest of a Defendant.
  • Arraignment, where the Defendant pleads Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest.
  • Trial, where the prosecution presents evidence that the defendant committed the criminal act, and the defense presents their evidence to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.
    • A jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty as to the crime he is accused of committing. If the jury cannot agree upon a verdict after extensive deliberation, they are a “hung jury” or “deadlocked jury.”
  • Appeal the decision if the defendant does not find the verdict satisfactory.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with My Criminal Case in California?

Criminal laws in California are somewhat strict, especially when it comes to felony convictions. You may wish to hire a California criminal lawyer if you or a loved one of yours needs legal representation. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice and information for your case. Also, your criminal lawyer can represent you during formal court hearings and meetings.