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The criminal justice system in California is very complex, involving a multitude of types and severity of offenses, as well as a variety of procedural steps, from arrest to conviction.  Criminal defense attorneys work to protect the rights of their clients as they navigate the system from the initial investigation/charge through trial and the appellate process.  Our firm represents clients at every stage of a criminal case, including arrest, interrogation, arraignment, bond, discovery, trial, and appeals.

Felonies and Misdemeanors

Under the California Penal Code, offenses are divided into 3 categories: felonies, misdemeanors and infractions.  A felony is a crime which is punishable by imprisonment in state prison or the death penalty in capital cases.  Most other charges are misdemeanors.  Felony crimes range from burglary to murder.  Grand theft, kidnapping and many drug offenses are also felonies.  There are six classes of felony crimes, with Class 1 being the most serious. 

When a crime is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for less than a year or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, it is a considered a misdemeanor.  The most common types of misdemeanor offenses are driving while intoxicated (DUI), petty theft, simple drug possession, and certain domestic violence offenses.

An infraction is a violation of a local ordinance, certain provisions of the Vehicle Code (e.g., speeding), or other local law or statute.  Infractions are usually petty offenses and generally do not result in any jail time.


Homicide is the killing of a human being with malice aforethought.  Malice aforethought means to kill either intentionally or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life.  A homicide charge is generally first-degree or second-degree.

Capital Punishment

Under the California Penal Code, the penalty is death or imprisonment for life without any possibility of parole for a defendant who is found guilty of murder that was intentional and committed for financial gain; murder of a police officer, federal officer, or judge; murder by destructive device, such as a bomb; murder committed while lying in wait; murder committed for religious or racist motives; or murder committed with other felonies.  If you or a loved one are facing a murder charge that carries the possibility of the death penalty, it is critical to secure the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney such as Thomas V. Kelley, who has successfully defended death penalty cases.

White Collar Crimes

Any non-violent crime committed for financial gain can fall under the category of a "white collar crime."  Common white collar crimes are embezzlement, banking and mail fraud, credit card fraud, computer and internet fraud, mortgage fraud, health care and insurance fraud, and identity fraud.  The law firm of Thomas V. Kelley has successfully represented individuals and businesses who were accused of white collar crimes.

Drug Crimes

Drug crimes involve illegal drugs, including narcotics, crack cocaine, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines, as well as prescriptions drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin.  A person can be charged for drug crimes for manufacturing and cultivating drugs, possessing for personal use, and possessing for sale, transportation and distribution.  The law firm of Thomas V. Kelley handles many drug-related cases, ranging from misdemeanor possession to those associated with violent crimes or racketeering charges, smuggling, or interstate transport of drugs.

Driving While Intoxicated

The charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) occurs when a driver is impaired in some way.  Intoxication can include the ingestion, injection, or taking by any other means of any intoxicating liquor, drug, or other substance.  Due to crackdowns on drunk driving in recent years, the penalties for DUI – even if it is your first offense – whether the intoxication was caused by alcohol or a prescribed medication, can be serious.  Such penalties include license suspension, fines, attendance in alcohol prevention programs, and jail time.

Parole and Probation

Parole is a conditional release from imprisonment, entitling the parolee to serve the remainder of his or her term outside the confines of an institution if the parolee satisfactorily complies with all the terms and conditions provided in the parole order.  The purpose of parole is to help individuals reintegrate into society as soon as they are able, without being confined for the full term of the sentence imposed, and to alleviate the cost to society of keeping the individual in prison.

Being placed on probation represents an agreement that, instead of being sent to jail for the maximum sentence, the probationer will comply with the orders of the court and complete certain obligations to the court in a timely way. 

A parole or probation violation does not necessarily mean that the parolee or probationer has to be incarcerated again.  Our firm will fight hard to secure a fair outcome for clients who have been charged with a parole or probation violation.