California Felony Sentencing Guidelines

If you have been charged with a felony, you might want to know what the California Felony Sentencing Guidelines say about how you will be sentenced, as well as whether you will be sentenced to jail, prison, or probation. In California, all crimes fall within one of the following categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Misdemeanor crimes are usually punished with imprisonment in county jail, payment of a fine, and summary (informal) probation.

Felonies, on the other hand, are punished with imprisonment in county jail or California State Prison, payment of hefty court fees and fines, as well as serving felony formal probation.

If you ever find yourself charged with a felony, you should immediately contact a felony criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group to defend you and keep you out of prison. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

What is Felony (Formal) Probation?

Felony probation is an alternative to serving time in prison, but it’s not available to everyone. Usually, to obtain felony probation, the defendant must hire an experienced felony attorney to negotiate felony probation into his plea deal.

Typically, an individual who is placed on felony probation is permitted to stay within his community under strict terms. The terms of a person’s felony probation can be found in a document called the terms and conditions of felony probation.

If a person is not placed on felony probation, he will likely service a jail or prison sentence. The length of this sentence depends on the sentencing guidelines for the criminal statute the person violated, the defendant’s past criminal history, and aggravating/mitigating factors associated with the defendant’s case.

For those who are released on felony probation, the term of their probation usually lasts for three to five years. During this three to five-year period, the convicted felon promises to abide by the terms and conditions of his probation.

As long as the defendant complies with the terms of his probation, he is permitted to stay out of prison and in the community. However, if the defendant violates the terms of his probation, he may be sent back to prison to complete the remainder of his prison sentence.

When determining whether to allow a person to be released on felony probation, the judge considers the following factors:

  • The seriousness of the offense
  • The defendant’s previous criminal conduct/criminal record
  • The degree of monetary, physical, or mental injury to the victim
  • Whether the defendant used a weapon in the commission of the crime
  • Whether the defendant used a weapon

If the offense was not serious, and your criminal record is clean, the judge may be more likely to award you felony probation. However, if you’ve been convicted in the past, the judge is likely going to allow you to serve probation in lieu of jail or prison time. So, what happens if you’re not awarded probation?

What Happens if the Defendant is Denied Felony Probation?

If the judge does not allow the defendant to be released on probation, the judge may sentence the defendant to serve time at a county jail or a California State Prison. In California, some criminal statutes often prescribe three sentencing terms, a lower term, a middle term, and an upper term. For example, the criminal may state the following: three years, four years, or five years in State Prison. The lower term would be three years, the middle term would be four years, and the upper term would be five years. Typically, an individual will not be given an upper sentence unless the facts surrounding his case are severe enough to warrant sentencing the defendant to the maximum prison sentence. Also, if the facts surrounding the defendant’s case are mitigating, the judge may sentence the defendant to the lower term. If there are no aggravating or mitigating factors, the judge may sentence the defendant to the middle term.

What Are Some of the Mitigating and Aggravating Factors Considered?

Here are some of the mitigating and aggravating factors that a judge may consider when sentencing the defendant:

  • Whether the defendant caused the victim a serious injury
  • Whether the defendant use a weapon or firearm in the commission of the crime
  • Whether the defendant suffers a mental illness
  • The defendant prior to criminal history
  • The vulnerability of the victim
  • The degree of physical or monetary harm to the victim
  • Whether the defendant was an active or passive participant in the crime
  • Was the defendant an aggressor or initiator of violence or force
  • Whether the defendant believed that he owned the property taken
  • Whether the crime required criminal sophistication by the defendant
  • The potential impact on the defendant and his dependents
  • Whether the defendant shows remorse for committing the crime for which he has been convicted
  • The potential danger to the public that the defendant poses if he is not imprisoned

The more mitigating circumstances there, the less lengthy the prison sentence. The reverse applies, as well. The more aggravating factors, the more likely it is the defendant will be sentenced to a lengthier prison sentence.

Usually, a defendant’s prison sentence is determined at a sentencing hearing. At the sentencing hearing, the judge usually determines the length of the sentence that the defendant will have to complete.

Typically, at the sentencing hearing, the defense argues the mitigating factors to the judge, while the prosecution argues that aggravating factors to the judge. After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge makes a decision as to the appropriate prison sentence for the defendant.

Consecutive vs Concurrent Terms

In cases where the defendant is charged with and convicted of multiple crimes, the judge must then make a determination as to whether the defendant should be sentenced to consecutive or concurrent terms. The consecutive term means that the defendant will serve both terms at the same time, meaning that the defendant must serve a full sentence for crime A and when he finishes serving his sentence from Crime A, he must then serve time for Crime B. On the other hand, when the defendant serves concurrent terms, he’s serving a sentence for both crimes simultaneously, meaning that when the defendant serves 1 day for crime A, he also serves 1 day for crime B.

What Occurs After a Convicted Felon Serves his Prison Term?

Once a person serves his prison sentence; he is released on parole. Once released on parole, a person must agree to certain terms and conditions. To remain out on parole, an individual must abide by the terms and conditions of his parole. If the defendant violates the terms and conditions of his parole, he can be sent back to prison to complete his prison sentence behind bars.

What is a Suspended Sentence?

A suspended sentence is known as felony probation or formal probation. In a suspended sentence, the judge allows the defendant to stay out of prison by suspending his prison sentence and placing him on formal felony probation. The prison sentence remains suspended so long as the defendant abides by the terms and conditions of his probation.

If the defendant violates the terms and conditions of his probation, the defendant will have to attend a probation violation hearing. At the hearing, the judge can do one of three things: (1) looks past the violation and allow the defendant to continue his probation as is, (2) the judge may modify the terms of the defendant’s probation, or (3) the judge may revoke the defendant’s probation and send him to prison to complete his prison sentence.

Felony Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony, you should immediately contact an experienced felony defense attorney to defend you and fight for you to keep you out of prison. Our attorneys have the knowledge and experienced to mitigate the potential consequences that you face. Felonies are serious criminal offenses that often result in a lengthy prison sentence, as well as hefty court fees and fines.

So, if you have been charged with a felony in Los Angeles or elsewhere in the State of California, you should immediately contact an experienced felony criminal defense attorney to represent you and mitigate the consequences that you face. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Charged with a Crime?


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Charged with a Crime?


Act now to protect your legal rights.