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Criminal Sentencing FAQ
How judges determine the punishment for people convicted of crimes.
Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions: Classifying Crimes
In every state, crimes are put into distinct categories. The categories are usually "felony," "misdemeanor," and "infraction."
What Is a Wobbler?
A “wobbler” isn’t a misdemeanor, nor is it a felony. It’s both. It’s a crime that prosecutors can charge as and judges can sentence as either a misdemeanor or felony.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Mandatory or Not?
Congress passed The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 in response to concerns that federal judges’ sentences tended to be too lenient and vary too much from one locale to another.
What Happens at Sentencing?
At a sentencing hearing, the judge will review the presentence report (prepared by the probation office) and hear arguments from both the prosecutor and the defense attorney—and sometimes, the victim.
Your Presentence Report and How to Improve It
Especially in felony and more serious misdemeanor cases, judges typically rely on presentence reports, prepared by probation officers, in making sentencing decisions.
Resentencing Under California's Proposition 47
Prop 47 downgraded many theft and drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. With some exceptions, people with prior convictions for these crimes, no matter how old, are entitled to ask for resentencing as a misdemeanant.
What's the difference between formal and informal probation in California?
Formal probationers report to probation officers, while informal probationers don’t.
Failing to comply with a condition of probation can land you swiftly in jail.
Sentencing Alternatives: Probation, Fines, and Community Service
Convictions don't always lead to jail time. What sentencing alternatives are out there? And who's eligible for them?
Beyond Jail: Fines and Restitution
Judges have many choices when it comes to sentencing a convicted defendant.
Restitution Law for Victims of Crime
Restitution is designed to compensate crime victims for their losses. Learn about the kinds of expenses and people that restitution covers.
"Time served" sounds great. Why not take the deal right away?
I've been offered "time served," which means I can go home right away. Any reason not to agree?
A "first offender" program is a way for some defendants to avoid the full effects of criminal prosecution. It's a type of diversion, often for those who have no previous criminal record.
Diversion and first-offender programs give defendants a way to avoid criminal convictions.
What Is Parole? How Does Parole Work?
Parole is a prison inmate’s privilege of conditional freedom. The prisoner gets out from behind bars, but has to live up to a series of responsibilities.
Eligibility for Parole
A prisoner's parole eligibility date is getting closer. Does that approaching date mean that person will be released soon?
Conditions of Parole
Parole is an early release from prison that's conditioned on abiding by parole conditions. Not following the rules can land a parolee back behind bars.
What Is Federal Supervised Release?
In the federal system, supervised release (sometimes also called special or mandatory parole) is a preliminary period of restricted freedom for recently released prisoners.