(a) A felony is a crime that is punishable with death, by imprisonment in the state prison, or notwithstanding any other provision of law, by imprisonment in a county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170. Every other crime or public offense is a misdemeanor except those offenses that are classified as infractions.

(b) When a crime is punishable, in the discretion of the court, either by imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment in a county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, it is a misdemeanor for all purposes under the following circumstances:

Terms Used In California Penal Code 17

  • Arraignment: A proceeding in which an individual who is accused of committing a crime is brought into court, told of the charges, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Complaint: A written statement by the plaintiff stating the wrongs allegedly committed by the defendant.
  • county: includes "city and county". See California Penal Code 7
  • Defendant: In a civil suit, the person complained against; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.
  • Felony: A crime carrying a penalty of more than a year in prison.
  • Jurisdiction: (1) The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case. Concurrent jurisdiction exists when two courts have simultaneous responsibility for the same case. (2) The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases.
  • magistrate: signifies any one of the officers mentioned in Section 808. See California Penal Code 7
  • Misdemeanor: Usually a petty offense, a less serious crime than a felony, punishable by less than a year of confinement.
  • Plea: In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty" or "not guilty" in answer to the charges, a declaration made in open court.
  • Probation: A sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases convicted defendants under supervision as long as certain conditions are observed.
  • state: when applied to the different parts of the United States, includes the District of Columbia and the territories, and the words "United States" may include the district and territories. See California Penal Code 7

(1) After a judgment imposing a punishment other than imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment in a county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

(2) When the court, upon committing the defendant to the Division of Juvenile Justice, designates the offense to be a misdemeanor.

(3) When the court grants probation to a defendant and at the time of granting probation, or on application of the defendant or probation officer thereafter, the court declares the offense to be a misdemeanor.

(4) When the prosecuting attorney files in a court having jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses a complaint specifying that the offense is a misdemeanor, unless the defendant at the time of his or her arraignment or plea objects to the offense being made a misdemeanor, in which event the complaint shall be amended to charge the felony and the case shall proceed on the felony complaint.

(5) When, at or before the preliminary examination or prior to filing an order pursuant to Section 872, the magistrate determines that the offense is a misdemeanor, in which event the case shall proceed as if the defendant had been arraigned on a misdemeanor complaint.

(c) When a defendant is committed to the Division of Juvenile Justice for a crime punishable, in the discretion of the court, either by imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment in a county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, the offense shall, upon the discharge of the defendant from the Division of Juvenile Justice, thereafter be deemed a misdemeanor for all purposes.

(d) A violation of any code section listed in Section 19.8 is an infraction subject to the procedures described in Sections 19.6 and 19.7 when:

(1) The prosecutor files a complaint charging the offense as an infraction unless the defendant, at the time he or she is arraigned, after being informed of his or her rights, elects to have the case proceed as a misdemeanor, or;

(2) The court, with the consent of the defendant, determines that the offense is an infraction in which event the case shall proceed as if the defendant had been arraigned on an infraction complaint.

(e) Nothing in this section authorizes a judge to relieve a defendant of the duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to Section 290 if the defendant is charged with an offense for which registration as a sex offender is required pursuant to Section 290, and for which the trier of fact has found the defendant guilty.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 18, Sec. 1. (AB 1941) Effective January 1, 2019.)