Violent crimes are acts committed to another person that results in injury, or suffering to the victim. California law defines violent crimes as violent felonies. Every felony is prosecuted on its merit and punishable under California’s Penal Code section 667.5 (c). It is vital to understand these crimes and the legal options available to you when you are facing criminal charges. It is also advisable to seek legal representation if you are accused of any violent crimes. Our team at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is ready to mount a strong defense strategy for your case to defend you if you are charged with a violent crime.
What is Considered as Violent Crimes?
The definition of crimes and their prosecution are covered under California’s Penal Code 667.5 (c) and California’s Three Strikes Law. While the Penal Code defines the crimes, the three strikes law elaborates the sentencing offenders can face for the crimes. Here is an overview of California’s violent crimes:
According to Penal Code 187, Murder is the unlawful killing of another person with malice afterthought. Malice afterthought means that the actions of the accused that led to the killing showed an intention to kill the victim. In Murder cases, the prosecution can charge you with either First-degree Murder or Second-degree Murder.
Murder is considered First-degree if it:
- Was committed using a weapon, poison, or armor-piercing ammunition. Furthermore, if the defendant tortured the victim to death, they will be charged with First-degree Murder.
- Was done deliberately or it was premeditated.
- Resulted while committing other serious felonies. If this is the case, the California Murder Rule will be invoked. The Murder rule is outlined in California Senate Bill 1437 that comes into effect when a defendant:
- Aids and abets killing
- Kills another when attempting to or while committing a felony
- Kills a peace officer, who was at the time of the Murder discharging their duties
First-degree Murder crimes are punishable with 25 years to a life prison term.
First-degree Murder charges can be tried as Capital Murder. Capital Murder is Murder in the first degree with special circumstances. The particular conditions are provided for under California’s Penal Code 190.2 PC, such as:
- Killing for financial gain
- Killing more than one victim
- Killing of a witness to stop them from testifying
- Murdering a judge, a police officer, firefighter, elected official, or a juror
Any successful conviction of Capital Murder attracts capital punishment, that is the death penalty. You could serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Second-degree Murder charges are all other forms of Murder other than First-degree Murder charges. Cases of self-defense and accidental killing, among others, are tried as Second-degree Murders. Furthermore, if your First-degree Murder action was out of coercion, you could face Second-degree Murder charges. The charges carry a 15 years-to-life prison sentence if convicted.
Arson is defined as the willful, malicious, or reckless setting of fire to property, land, or a building. Under California law, arson is defined in two ways:
- Willful or malicious setting fire to land, building, or other property as described in Code 451 PC
- The unlawful setting of fire to land, building, or another property - the law refers to these arson cases as reckless arson; in other cases, it is termed as reckless burning
It is upon the prosecution in arson cases to prove your state of mind when committing the crime. This determines whether the charges brought against you will be prosecuted as per the dictates of Penal Code 451 or Penal Code 452.
Penal Code 451 provides certain aspects as the benchmark set for prosecutors should they prosecute you under Code 451 PC. First, you must have willfully caused the fire and set it on a property that was not your own. The property, in this case, includes bridges, personal furniture, cars, clothing, public property, and power centers, among others. Furthermore, the prosecution should prove that the property was damaged. The degree of property damage does not matter. As long as some damage resulted from the fire, you stand accused of arson under Penal Code 451.
Code 452 PC sets different arson terms. While you may not have planned or intended to set the property, land, or building in question on fire, you may have ignored the risks of your actions. This means that you were conscious that starting the fire posed a particular threat to you, others, and their property. However, you chose to ignore the risks. Doing so is contrary to how a reasonable individual, in similar circumstances, would act. Your actions, therefore, show liability on your part.
The penalties for arson vary depending on the nature of your case. That is, the judge will consider the nature of the property that was set on fire, and whether your case was reckless arson or malicious or willful arson. Furthermore, any injuries from the arson case as well as your criminal history will all be used to determine the punishment equal to the crime.
Penal code 451 provides for sixteen months, two, or a three-year prison term for malicious arson on private property. Arson on forestland attracts a two, four, or six-year sentence. For inhabited property that was set ablaze, the court can sentence you to a three, five, or an eight-year-long prison time. If the arson caused grave bodily injury to another person, you might serve five, seven, or nine years sentence. You may also be required to pay the penalty fees totaling to $10,000, with additional penalties going as high as $50,000 or twice as much as the anticipated financial gain from the fire.
Penal Code 452, on the other hand, is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or as a felony charge, which is dependent on the prosecution’s discretion. If charged with a misdemeanor, you could face six months in jail with/or a penalty of no more than $1,000. If charged for a reckless arson offense for burning forestland, or another structure, you could spend sixteen months, two, or three years in prison as a felony sentence. Reckless burning of inhabited structure carries a two (2), three (3), or four-year (4) sentence. If the arson resulted in bodily injury, you could serve two, four, or six years in prison.
Robbery is defined as the taking up of another’s property without their consent through fear or force. This is the definition provided for by Penal Code 211. The law further provides aspects that are considered as Robbery cases:
- Instances, where one breaks into a house, threatens the residents with physical harm, then steals their property
- Threatening the property owner with physical injury after getting caught trying to escape.
- Drugging another and stealing their valuables in their unconscious state.
Robbery is tried as either a Robbery in the first or second degree. If it took place in an inhabited structure, was committed to a person who just used an ATM or a taxi, subway, bus, or a taxi driver was the victim, you stand charged of Robbery in the first degree. The offense carries a prison sentence of three to nine years. Any other Robbery circumstances other than the above mentioned are classified as Second-degree Robbery. A prison sentence of either, two, three, or five years is imposed as punishment.
Penal Code 240 defines Assaultas the attempt to, with a present ability, inflict bodily harm to another. Note that it is considered Assaultto another even if it is an attempt to harm another, whether or not you followed through with hurting them. If you followed through with causing harm to another through force, you would be charged with Battery. It is upon the prosecution to prove that the court should indeed find you guilty of the crime. They ought to satisfy the court that you, the defendant:
- Willfully committed the crime
- Acted in a manner consistent with causing injury to another or that your actions resulted in the use of force to another
- Was aware that your actions could result in injury on the victim
Assaultin California is tried as a misdemeanor or as a felony if you use a deadly weapon and carries a six-month jail term or a $1,000 fine or both if it is prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
If the defendant used a deadly weapon, the case is charged under Penal Code 245 (a)(1), Assault with a Deadly Weapon law. The code considers the use of a deadly weapon or the use of force that would lead to great bodily harm as aspects that should be proven in an Assault with a Deadly Weapon case. Assault with a Deadly Weapon is a wobbler in California. It may be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts in your case. The following issues determine the prosecution’s decision to try the Assaultwith a deadly weapon as a misdemeanor or a felony:
- The weapon used in the crime - the more deadly weapon used, the severe the crime
- The severity of the bodily injury caused to the victim - in interrogating this matter, the injury should be a consequence of the alleged Assault
- Whether the victim was a firefighter, a police officer, or a protected individual
A conviction of Assault as a misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence of no more than one year. Felony cases attract two, three, or four years sentence as punishment for the crime, with the prison sentence being determined by the court.
Battery cases are confusing to many in that many believe that Assault and Battery are tried as one case. Others, on the other hand, think that Battery ought to end up in physical injury. However, Assault and Battery are two separate crimes that are punishable under different laws. The Battery is tried under Penal Code 242 while Assaultis tried under Penal Code 240. It is worth also noting that you stand accused of Battery even if you only touched the victim. If the result of the touch was a severe injury, you might be charged under the Penal Code 243 (d) PC, Battery Causing Serious Bodily Harm.
A Battery case may be tried in either of two ways, depending on the circumstances of your case. It may either be a case of simple Battery or Battery on a peace officer. Simple Battery cases are tried as misdemeanors. You stand to serve up to six months in jail for the offense or pay a fine of no more than $2,000, or both. However, Battery on a police officer, employees of the probation department, EMTs, process servers, firefighter, or other public officers is tried under Penal Code 243 (b) or (c)(2).
Penal Code 243 comes into effect if it is established that you had reasonable knowledge that the victim was an officer on duty at the time of the Battery. Battery under Penal Code 243 is a misdemeanor. You stand to serve a one-year jail sentence and/or a fine of no more than $2,000. If the prosecution pursues a felony charge for the crime, you may end up serving sixteen months, two, or three years in jail. You may also be obliged to pay a fine of an amount to the tune of $10,000.
Any threat to cause harm or any actions that cause harm to an intimate partner is categorized as domestic violence. Domestic violence crimes are prosecuted under either Domestic Battery Penal code 243 (e) (1) or Inflicting Corporal Injury, Penal Code 273.5.
Domestic Spousal Battery
Penal Code 243 (e) (1) defines Battery or Spousal Battery as the unlawful touching of an intimate partner in a way that is harmful or offensive. An intimate partner, according to the law, can be:
- The defendant’s fiancé or a former fiancé
- A cohabitant, present or former
- The defendant’s spouse, present, or previous
- An individual who was or is in a dating relationship with the defendant
- The mother or father of the defendant’s child
If convicted of Spousal Battery, you could face misdemeanor punishment. You could be required to pay a fine of no more than $2,000, and/or a jail term not exceeding one year. Moreover, the judge may direct you to attend 52 weeks of batterers’ intervention program as part of your sentencing.
Corporal Injury on an Intimate Partner
Corporal Injury on an Intimate Partner means physical harm to a spouse or cohabitant. Penal Code 273.5 PC defines Corporal Injury to include the deliberate actions of another to cause a traumatic condition on their intimate partner. Penal Code 273.5 further defines an intimate partner as your spouse (current or former) current or former finance, cohabitant, child’s father or mother, or dating partner.
Corporal Injury to an Intimate Partner is punishable by law either as a misdemeanor or as a felony. A misdemeanor conviction will cost you up to $6,000 in fines and/or a one-year sentence in jail. A felony conviction, on the other hand, attracts a penalty of no more than $6,000 or a sentence of two, three, or four years.
Corporal Injury on a Child
Corporal Injury on a Child is defined as child abuse in some circumstances. Penal Code 273 (d) governs the matter of child abuse. The code states corporal injury on a child as the cruel punishment or inflicting of an injury on a child that results in an injury. Child abuse is punishable either as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense. Misdemeanors are punished through a jail term of no more than a year with a possibility of a fine of no more than $6,000. Felony charges are punishable with a two, four, or six-year prison sentence with an additional four years if you had a prior felony child abuse conviction in the last ten years before this conviction, and a $6,000 fine.
Penal Code 273 (a) offers guidelines on what constitutes Child Endangerment. Any of the following actions are considered Child Endangerment:
- Actions that allow or causing pain or mental suffering of a child.
- It is intentionally permitting custody to one that causes injury to a child.
- Intentionally allowing custody to one that compromises on the safety of the child.
You stand to pay a fine of no more than $6,000 in fines if convicted and serve a jail term of no more than one year if charged with a misdemeanor. If the child was at risk of great bodily harm or death, you can face a fine of no more than $10,000 and/or a prison sentence of two, four, or six years.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The legal system may deny you justice in their pursuit of punishing crime. This is very common, especially in cases of wrongful conviction that results from a less than stellar investigation, or in cases of misidentification. It is also not uncommon that the victim misrepresents facts to have a strong conviction. Whether or not you are guilty of a crime, you need to have an attorney on your side, and The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is prepared to help you. Reach out to us at 310-564-2605 today!