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Felony Crimes In California, Penalties, Punishment, Sentencing


Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

In California, a felony crime is one where the potential sentence is more than one year. This distinction sets apart felony offenses from misdemeanor crimes. It is common for individuals who are arrested for a felony to have limited knowledge or experience with the criminal justice system in California. Consequently, they may struggle to comprehend the various steps and procedures involved in their criminal case.

There are two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the most severe offenses and can lead to state prison sentences and hefty fines. Additionally, being convicted of a felony can have other significant and negative impacts on a person’s life.

A “straight” felony refers to a crime that can only be charged and sentenced as a felony, without the possibility of being reduced to a misdemeanor. This designation applies to the most serious felony offenses in the state, including crimes that qualify as a “strike” under California’s “three strikes” law.

For instance, under California law, first-degree burglary is defined as the act of unlawfully entering an inhabited house or dwelling structure. This offense is always considered a felony and is therefore classified as a “straight” felony.


If you are facing a felony charge in California, your case will likely proceed to a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor will have to provide evidence to show that the criminal charges are supported by probable cause. During the hearing, your attorney can challenge the prosecutor’s evidence and witnesses. This can be a critical stage in your defense, as it may lead to the dismissal of your case if the prosecutor’s evidence is found to be insufficient. There are several common felony charges in California, including:


These charges are serious and carry severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and high fines.

If you believe that there was insufficient evidence to hold you to answer to the felony charges, you may be able to challenge the preliminary hearing findings through a Penal Code 995 motion to dismiss. This motion allows your attorney to argue that the prosecutor did not provide enough evidence to justify holding you to answer to the charges. If the trial court judge agrees with your motion, your case may be dismissed.


When it comes to felony sentencing in California, the severity of the crime plays a significant role. The possible penalties for a felony conviction include serving time in a county jail or a California state prison, as well as facing fines of up to $10,000.

However, in some cases, a judge may choose to sentence a convicted individual to felony probation instead. In our experience, we have been able to negotiate plea deals for our clients, resulting in probation without any jail time and with minimal conditions. Our aim is to secure the best outcome for our clients within the confines of the law.


Felonies in California are typically penalized with imprisonment for one of three terms: a low term, a middle term, or a high term. These terms are specified in criminal statutes, which also indicate whether the sentence should be served in state prison or county jail.

Generally, the middle felony term is usually given. However, a judge will impose the high term of sentencing if there are aggravating factors present in the crime, such as the use of a weapon or extreme violence. In contrast, the low term is given when there are mitigating factors that lessen the severity of the crime, such as minimal involvement or a clean criminal record.


For instance, according to California Penal Code 461(a) PC, first-degree burglary is subject to a California state prison term of two years, four years, or six years.

Please note; In Los Angeles County Courts, sentences are typically set at the lower end of the penalty range unless there are exceptional circumstances.

To help get a lower term in your sentencing, Tabibnia Law Firm will prepare a detailed presentation that highlights all the reasons why you deserve the low term. We may also ask your friends, family, and co-workers to speak on your behalf or write letters to the judge.


When convicted of a felony in California, judges have the discretion to grant formal probation as part of your sentence. Felony probation aims to rehabilitate individuals and provide an opportunity to live a law-abiding life by allowing them to serve most or all of their sentence under the supervision of a probation officer instead of being incarcerated.

In California, a sentence of formal probation can technically include up to one year in county jail. However, it is common for individuals sentenced to formal probation to serve minimal or no jail time in practice.

In Los Angeles County, probation must be granted in probation-eligible felony cases unless there are specific circumstances.

Typically, felony probation lasts up to two years for non-violent felonies. However, These probation can last up to three years for specific crimes involving more than $25,000, such as:

  • Grand theft – Penal Code 487
  • Embezzlement –  Penal Code 503
  • False personation, and cheats –  Penal Code 532a

These probation time limits do not apply to violent felonies or crimes with statutes specifying a different probationary range.

While on probation, you must adhere to certain conditions. These conditions may include:

  • Monthly meetings with a probation officer
  • Payment of victim restitution
  • Participation in individual or group therapy
  • Anger management counseling
  • Drug testing (if the felony involved a drug crime)
  • Community service or labor
  • Potential searches of your person or property with or without a warrant.


When you violate felony probation, the resulting actions that a judge can take may include revoking your probation and imposing the maximum sentence allowed for the original crime, which could result in imprisonment.

If there is a valid reason for the violation, the judge may consider leniency. In such cases, the judge may choose to overlook the violation or opt to extend the length of probation and impose stricter conditions.


In California, certain felony convictions, excluding serious, violent, or sex offender crimes, are automatically expunged from your record if you successfully completed probation. If probation was not granted, the state clears the conviction from your record four years after the case concludes.

Expungement does not completely erase a conviction; however, it does alleviate many negative consequences associated with it.

Individuals convicted of a felony or misdemeanor crimes in California may be eligible for expungement if the following conditions are met:

  • The judge did not impose a sentence of incarceration.
  • There are no current criminal charges, probation, or serving of a sentence for another offense.
  • The conviction was not for specific sex offenses or violent crimes.


When facing the possibility of a felony conviction in California, it is crucial to explore avenues that may help avoid or minimize the consequences of such a conviction.

In cases where avoiding a conviction is not possible, the focus shifts towards strategies aimed at mitigating the impact. One potential option is probation, which may be available for various felony crimes. To increase the chances of receiving probation, it is important for defendants to pursue a specific strategy after being charged. This may involve seeking drug or alcohol treatment, counseling, anger management programs, or other relevant programs.

In order to explore alternatives, it may be beneficial to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer from the Tabibnia Law Firm in Los Angeles. Cyrus Tabibnia has the expertise to negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or even the dismissal of the case. Additionally, pre-filing intervention may be considered to prevent formal charges from being filed. To discuss the specifics of your felony case, schedule an appointment with Cyrus Tabibnia by calling 866-713-2159.

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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