Alternatives to Imprisonment
Being convicted of a felony can change your life. A felony in California is punishable by up to three years in a county jail, up to life in prison, or the death penalty. That's nothing to bat an eye at considering the many non-violent crimes that can be charged as felonies. Since misdemeanors are only punishable by up to a year in jail, felonies are far more serious by comparison. Those facing felony charges often wonder if there are any alternatives to a lengthy sentence. This is a good question because not all those convicted of a felony go to prison or even jail. Some defendants can have their felony sentences suspended, which means they face no imprisonment.
Though felonies can be punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty, the courts recognize not every defendant deserves such a sentence. Some defendants are granted suspended sentences. On his or her discretion, the judge may “suspend” a jail or prison sentence. When this happens, the defendant is put on formal probation, and the sentence is suspended until the defendant completes the terms of his or her probation successfully.
Formal probation differs from summary probation in that the defendant must meet with a probation officer. The probation officer oversees the completion of the probation term by keeping detailed information on the defendant that the judge and court can access at any time and periodically monitoring him or her. Home visits may be a component of this process. The defendant will incur an expense from formal probation. Additional expenses may be incurred if drug testing, counseling, or victim restitution are requirements of the probation, and these expenses combined could amount to several hundred dollars a month. The victim may also be required to perform community service or participate in the Cal-Trans or Community Labor programs.
Certain felony convictions carry a mandatory prison sentence and therefore are not eligible for suspended sentences. These convictions include serious offenses such as murder, attempted murder, offenses involving deadly weapons, and other violent felonies. And not all defendants are suitable for probation. The court may deny a defendant's request for a suspended sentence if he or she has a history of prior offenses or probation violations, it seems likely the defendant could carry out additional crimes during the probation period, or if the victim would be put at risk if the defendant was let free in the community. These are just a few elements the judge will consider. The judge will also heavily consider the nature and seriousness of the offense.
Probation is meant to minimize the effect the conviction will have on the defendant's life while still rehabilitating him or her. As you can see, however, formal probation imposes many restrictions on the defendant's life, and he or she could face significant recurring costs associated with the probation. You can also face serious penalties for violating the terms of your probation. You could be arrested, have your probation period extended or the conditions changed, face fines, or face additional criminal charges among other consequences. You could even have your probation term revoked, meaning you will have to serve your full sentence. Thus, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced attorney about your case so you can better understand your options. Obtaining a suspended sentence for a felony will allow you to keep your freedom, but it is important to understand the requirements you must meet.
If you are facing a felony charge, speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney right away. The longer you wait in your case to speak with an attorney, the fewer options you will have. An attorney can explain what your charges mean and what penalties the court may impose in addition to what alternative options you may have available to you. An attorney can also help you fight your charges or obtain the best possible outcome in your case. Facing felony charges alone is never a good idea, so make sure you know and understand your rights and options before appearing in court.
If you are facing felony charges, call experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advise you of your rights and help you fight your charges. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.