Common Misdemeanor Crimes in Orange County, CA: What You Need to Know

July 9, 2024

Living in Orange County, CA, offers a vibrant lifestyle with beautiful beaches, bustling cities, and a strong sense of community. However, like any other urban area, it experiences its share of crime. Misdemeanors are common offenses that, while less severe than felonies, can still have significant legal and personal consequences. This article explores some of the most common misdemeanor crimes in Orange County, their legal implications, and steps to take if you find yourself facing such charges.

Understanding Misdemeanors in California

Misdemeanors in California are criminal offenses that are less serious than felonies but more severe than infractions. They typically carry penalties of up to one year in county jail, fines, probation, community service, and other rehabilitative measures. Common misdemeanors in Orange County include DUI, petty theft, domestic battery, vandalism, and simple assault.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

One of the most frequently prosecuted misdemeanors in Orange County is driving under the influence (DUI). Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. DUI charges can result from traffic stops, sobriety checkpoints, or after an accident.

Penalties for DUI:

  • First Offense: Up to six months in county jail, fines up to $1,000, a six-month driver’s license suspension, and mandatory DUI education programs.
  • Second Offense: Increased penalties, including longer jail time, higher fines, longer license suspension, and more intensive DUI programs.
  • Third Offense and Beyond: Further escalated penalties, potential felony charges, and longer-term license revocation.

Legal Defenses:

  • Improper Stop: Challenging the legality of the traffic stop.
  • Faulty Testing: Questioning the accuracy of breathalyzer or blood test results.
  • Medical Conditions: Highlighting medical conditions that could affect BAC readings.

Petty Theft

Petty theft, as defined under California Penal Code Section 484 and 488, involves the unlawful taking of property valued at $950 or less. Common examples include shoplifting, stealing personal belongings, or failing to pay for services.

Penalties for Petty Theft:

  • Up to six months in county jail.
  • Fines up to $1,000.
  • Restitution to the victim.
  • Probation and community service.

Legal Defenses:

  • Lack of Intent: Arguing that the defendant did not intend to steal.
  • Mistaken Identity: Proving that the defendant was not the person who committed the theft.
  • Right of Ownership: Demonstrating that the defendant believed they had a right to the property.

Domestic Battery

Domestic battery, charged under California Penal Code 243(e)(1), involves the use of force or violence against an intimate partner. This can include spouses, cohabitants, dating partners, or the parent of the defendant’s child. Unlike more serious domestic violence charges, domestic battery does not require visible injuries to the victim.

Penalties for Domestic Battery:

  • Up to one year in county jail.
  • Fines up to $2,000.
  • Mandatory domestic violence counseling.
  • Possible issuance of a restraining order.

Legal Defenses:

  • Self-Defense: Demonstrating that the defendant acted to protect themselves from harm.
  • False Accusation: Proving that the charges are based on false or exaggerated claims.
  • Lack of Injury: Arguing that no battery occurred if there are no visible injuries.


Vandalism, under California Penal Code 594, involves damaging, defacing, or destroying someone else’s property. This can include graffiti, breaking windows, or damaging vehicles. The severity of the charge depends on the extent of the damage and the value of the property affected.

Penalties for Vandalism:

  • Misdemeanor Vandalism: Up to one year in county jail, fines up to $1,000 (or $5,000 if the damage is extensive), community service, and restitution.
  • Felony Vandalism: Possible for damages exceeding $400, with more severe penalties.

Legal Defenses:

  • Lack of Intent: Arguing that the damage was accidental and not intentional.
  • Mistaken Identity: Proving that the defendant was not responsible for the vandalism.
  • Insufficient Evidence: Challenging the evidence linking the defendant to the crime.

Simple Assault

Simple assault, defined under California Penal Code 240, is an attempt to use force or violence against another person without causing serious injury. This can occur in various situations, such as bar fights, road rage incidents, or disputes between neighbors.

Penalties for Simple Assault:

  • Up to six months in county jail.
  • Fines up to $1,000.
  • Probation and community service.

Legal Defenses:

  • Self-Defense: Proving that the defendant acted to protect themselves from imminent harm.
  • Defense of Others: Demonstrating that the defendant was protecting another person from harm.
  • Lack of Ability: Arguing that the defendant could not inflict harm at the time of the alleged assault.

Steps to Take if Charged with a Misdemeanor

Facing misdemeanor charges can be stressful and overwhelming. Here are some steps to take if you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Contact an Experienced Attorney:
    • Seek legal representation from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who understands the intricacies of California law and has experience handling misdemeanor cases in Orange County.
  1. Understand Your Rights:
    • Be aware of your rights during interactions with law enforcement and the judicial system. This includes the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel.
  1. Gather Evidence:
    • Collect any evidence that may support your defense, such as witness statements, photographs, videos, and any relevant documents.
  1. Prepare for Court:
    • Work closely with your attorney to prepare for court appearances. This includes understanding the charges against you, the potential penalties, and the defense strategies available.
  1. Consider Plea Bargains:
    • In some cases, negotiating a plea bargain may result in reduced charges or penalties. Your attorney can advise you on whether this is a viable option.

Contact an Experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Misdemeanor crimes in Orange County, CA, can carry significant consequences, including jail time, fines, probation, and a criminal record. Understanding the most common misdemeanors, their penalties, and potential defenses is crucial for anyone facing such charges. If you find yourself charged with a misdemeanor, it is essential to seek the advice and representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the legal process and work towards the best possible outcome for your case. By taking proactive steps and being well-informed, you can better navigate the challenges of the criminal justice system. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to schedule a consultation with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney.

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