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Criminal Charges Vs. Civil Charges

criminal-charges-vs-civil-charges2

criminal-charges-vs-civil-charges2

One of the things that makes the American legal system confusing is that we have both criminal charges and civil charges.

Criminal charges are a straightforward part of the legal process. If you break the law, you’re arrested and criminal charges are filed against you. You have the option of pleading guilty to these charges. If you don’t plead guilty, the case goes to trial and a jury will decide if you’re guilty.

Civil charges are more complicated. Civil charges involve the victims of the crime. The civil court provides victims with an opportunity to do two things. First, they can face the person who they believe impacted the quality of their life. The second thing civil charges do is provide the victims with an opportunity to seek financial retribution.

If you’re unlucky enough to be hit with both criminal and civil charges, you’ll quickly notice that the two cases are handled quite differently.

The punishment in criminal cases usually involves fines, jail time, community service, or probation.

  • The punishment in civil cases is always financial.
  • There is a different standard of proof in civil and criminal cases.
  • Defendants in criminal cases have different guaranteed protections.
  • Juries are only used in very specific civil cases, most of the time it’s the judge who makes the final civil case ruling.

One of the things the O.J. Simpson case proved was that even if you’re not found guilty of the crime in a criminal case, you can be found guilty during a civil case. The reason Simpson was found guilty during the civil case even though he’d been found not-guilty during the criminal case is that a different standard of proof is required in the cases.

One of the first things criminal juries are told is that they can only find the defendant guilty if the prosecutor has proven that the defendant committed the crimes “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That means that if there is any question in the jury’s mind that someone else committed the crime, they must find the defendant not guilty. In the O.J Simpson criminal trial, the jury voted not-guilty because there was evidence that suggested someone else could have committed the murders. In his civil case, there was enough evidence to suggest he had.

The “beyond a reasonable doubt” concept disappears in civil cases. In those cases, if the judge (and in rare situations, a jury) looks for a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that if all the evidence suggests that the defendant committed the crime, they’ll be found guilty of the civil charges.

One of the interesting things about civil cases is that the people who filed the charges against the defendant not only seek financial restitution for actual costs, such as medical bills following a DUI accident but can also seek punitive costs which include pain and suffering.

Considering the extremely high cost of both criminal and civil cases, it’s in your best interest to think twice before you commit a criminal act that could result in you facing both criminal and civil charges.

 

Disorderly Conduct In California

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disorderly-conduct-in-california2

One of the problems with California’s legal system is that sometimes it’s difficult to know that you’re breaking the law. In many disorderly conduct cases, people think they’re just having a good time or being opinionated until the police show up. Sometimes people don’t even know what they’ve done until they hear the charges as the booking officer works through the paperwork.

What is considered disorderly conduct can vary from one state to another. Some cities even have different rules regarding what is and isn’t disorderly conduct.

In California, disorderly conduct is generally considered behavior that irritates, stresses, or alarms those around you. That doesn’t mean your little sister can file disorderly conduct charges against you each time you annoy her while you’re at home. However, if the pair of you are at a bar and you start shouting at her, the other bar patrons will likely call the police and you could be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Most disorderly conduct cases in California involve at least one person who is publicly intoxicated.

In addition to getting too wild while at the bar, California considers the following activities to be forms of disorderly conduct:

  • Lewd/lascivious acts
  • Soliciting
  • Engaging in prostitution
  • Loud public arguments
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Peeping

Sometimes loitering can be an instance of disorderly conduct.

The Consequences Of Disorderly Conduct In California

Disorderly conduct in California is a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted and it’s a first offense, you could be sentenced to six months in jail and/or be charged a $1,000 fine. If you already have disorderly conduct charges on your record, the punishment could be more severe.

In some cases, disorderly conduct can be connected with additional charges, such as:

  • Simple assault
  • Trespassing
  • Public Intoxication

Disorderly Conduct Defenses In California

Putting together a good defense case in California when you’re dealing with a disorderly conduct charge isn’t always easy. Some defenses that have been successfully used in the past include:

  • Invoking Freedom of Speech
  • That you were acting in self-defense
  • That you were falsely accused
  • That it was a domestic dispute (this is a tricky defense if you were in a public building at the time)

If you know that you tend to get loud and do rash things when you’re having a good time and drinking, it’s in your best interest to either stay home or make sure you go out with someone who can stop your behavior and help you regain control before anyone calls the police.

 

Understanding Assault With A Deadly Weapon

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understanding-assault-with-a-deadly-weapon2

Assault with a deadly weapon is basically what it sounds like. It means you are accused of assaulting someone and at the time you had something that could have been considered a deadly weapon. Like most legal issues, assault with a deadly weapon isn’t as simple as we would like it to be.

What Is A Deadly Weapon?

The first issue that comes up during assault with deadly weapon trials is if the object was deadly. Most of us hear deadly weapons and we instantly think of things like guns and knives. We don’t usually realize that many of the things that are simply laying around your house could be considered a deadly weapon in the right situation. In the heat of the moment, a shoe, pen, heavy beer bottle, or dog leash could become a deadly weapon. There have even been situations when a person bit or clawed an opponent and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon due to the sheer amount of damage their teeth and nails did to the victim.

Why It’s Important To Understand What A Deadly Weapon Is

Assault with a deadly weapon isn’t a simple thing in California, in large part because it’s one of the state’s wobbler laws. Depending on the circumstances, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

If you’re convicted of felony assault with a deadly weapon you could spend the next four years in a state prison and be hit with up to $10,000 in fines. You’ll also probably have to go through a felony probation period.

If a gun is involved, the situation becomes even more complicated. If you have a simple handgun during the assault, the DA has the option of charging you with a misdemeanor. However, if the gun was a machine gun, an assault weapon, a semi-automatic, or a .50 BMG rifle, you’re automatically hit with felony charges. If you’re found guilty of felony assault with a deadly weapon that included one of the listed firearms, you could be sentenced to twelve years in prison.

Potential Defenses In Assault With A Deadly Weapon

Just because you’ve been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, that doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. There are several, legal defenses you can use, including:

  • Someone was mistaken and you weren’t in possession of a deadly weapon at the time of the assault.
  • You didn’t intend to use the weapon.
  • You acted in self-defense.

Because assault with a deadly weapon in California is complicated, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced defense attorney as soon as you hear the charges.

 

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