How Criminal Charges Are Determined

How Criminal Charges Are Determined

Our legal system has three different levels of convictions: infraction, misdemeanor and a felony. At the time of arrest, the police officer will inform the suspect about charges against him. Being charged does not mean being guilty. Let’s review what each charge stands for and get more familiar with our law system.


This is the lowest type of charge according to the law. Most common infractions are traffic tickets that almost all of us have gotten at some point. This type of charge is not considered as a criminal matter. According to the law, infractions usually end up with financial penalties up to few hundred dollars. While some of the States have indicated in their “book of law” that the person can go up to three days in jail for an infraction, in reality that is unlikely to happen, unless the person charged does not pay the ticket amount in timely manner. Infraction cases do not need strong evidence, while on the other hand the person who has been charged with this type of violation does not even have to appear in the Orange County Court if he pays the fine by the certain due date. Orange County bail bonds are typically not needed for infractions

Petty Offenses

Petty offenses are something in-between an infraction and misdemeanor. The majority of them have the same status as an infraction, which means that the judgment will be fine in the amount of few hundred dollars. On the other hand, a court appearance might be needed and conviction might have a criminal nature.


With this type of charge, things are getting more serious. First and foremost, a misdemeanor is a criminal offense, which means that the outcome of your case will be entered in your criminal record. This type of charge can be applicable to a variety of violations, ranging from traffic violations, petty thefts, to even “sex crimes” which most of the time lead to a requirement for the person to be registered as a sex offender. Once being registered as a sex offender, the conviction will have lifetime consequences: from getting a job to renting an apartment. Misdemeanor charge can lead to a fine of up to $1,000, jail time of up to a year (365 days) or probation. On many occasions, punishment is “assembled” of several different things combined. For example: 180 days of jail time plus three years of unconditional probation plus a fine of $150. Jail time is usually served in the local Orange County jail, while many inmates get released on as low as 10% of the time served if the crime is not considered as violent. Overcrowded jails definitely contribute to earlier release of inmates. Most Santa Ana bail bonds agents are able to help with misdemeanor offenses.


All the serious crimes are considered felonies. Some of them are: burglary, robbery, assault with deadly weapon, arson and of course – murder. In many States felony convicts have to give DNA samples, which are stored in a national database. The majority of judgments lead to long prison time sentences and even the death penalty for the cases such as cruel murder. Not all felonies are the same. Some States (like California) have something known as “strikes”, which is considered an aggravated felony. If the person gets convicted for “three strikes” during his life, he will have to stay in prison for the rest of his life. The only legal thing that can be possibly done from that point on would be to try to get paroled after many years of imprisonment.

Not being arrested does not mean that you are not going to be charged

This especially applies to misdemeanor cases, where the police needs some time to collect the evidence. The case is not so “strong” to the point that you have to be arrested and put behind the bars. However, if you know that you have violated the law at the misdemeanor level and there is some sort of investigation going on, do not get too comfortable. Make sure that the address on your ID is the one where you really live. If you have not been arrested and misdemeanor charges were filed few weeks later by the District Attorney, you are going to be informed by mail to the address listed on your ID or the address that you provided as “new address” if you recently moved. In many States, District Attorneys usually file charges even a few months after the low level crime has been committed. Contacting an Orange County bail bonds company at this point is a good idea.

What is the “booking” number?

Every suspect that gets arrested will receive a “booking number”, which is also known as an inmate number. At the point of arrest, police will take all required info from the suspect, such as first and last name, date of birth, address etc. If there is any outstanding warrant for not appearing in Court, the suspect will definitely have to wait to see the Judge. Fingerprinting is just a standard part of this procedure. While all of this is being done, a Santa Ana bail bonds representative can be doing the paperwork to get you released as soon as booking is completed.

Arrest of an “alien”

Immigrants have to be especially careful not to get in trouble in our beautiful country, since they can face consequences beyond serving time in jail or prison. If you are an “alien”, legal or illegal, it is very important that you hire an attorney from the moment you get arrested. It is also important to mention that not all criminal attorneys are at the same time fully familiar with Immigration laws, so you have to choose one who knows both ends of this matter. Immigration laws are the “story for itself” and if your attorney is not familiar with Immigration law practice, he might put your future in jeopardy, without even knowing what he did. What might be a “good deal” offered by the District Attorney to an American citizen, that might be your worst case scenario if you do not have American citizenship. Make sure any Orange County bail bonds firm you contact is able to post federal immigration bonds.

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by Chuck Portola

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