Using or threatening to use force against a person is classified among the most severe crimes in the state of California. At the height of anger, a person can easily threaten or use force on another, without meaning to carry out the threat or to cause them harm. For that reason, it is possible to be arrested and charged with violence even when you are innocent. That is why The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm is here to help. We offer legal defense services for people facing violent crime charges in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. With the right defense, the judge may reduce or drop your charges.
Understanding Violent Crimes
A violent crime occurs when a person (perpetrator) uses force or threatens to use force upon another person (victim). This means that all crimes in which violence is the main object are classified under violent crimes, and these may include Rape, Murder, and Battery. Included here are those crimes in which violence is the means to an end, ranging from harassment to Homicide. Some crimes of violence may involve the use of deadly weapons such as firearms.
Violent crimes are common in the United States in general, and the state of California in particular. Because of the popularity of violence, perpetrators of these crimes are punished severely, with hefty fines and many years behind bars. Some defendants even get a lifetime in jail, depending on how severe the crime is. For the same reason, so many people have been falsely accused of violence in California. That is why criminal defense laws are in place, to ensure that only actual perpetrators are being punished for their crimes.
Violent crimes are convicted as felonies in the state of California, which means that a defendant can be sent to prison or jail for years if found guilty of the offense. It is essential to understand what violent crimes entail and how a conviction can affect your life if you are facing criminal charges for violence in the state.
Types of Violent Crimes in California
The law against Murder in California is provided under Section 187 of the State Penal Code. According to this section of the law, Murder is used to define the premeditated, malicious, and illegal killing of another person or fetus. The killer, in this case, has total disrespect for human life and will consequently have acted in a way that will lead to the death of the victim. The main element of Murder is malice.
Murder is charged differently in the state of California, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. It can be convicted as a First-Degree Murder or Second-Degree Murder.
First-Degree Murder is the kind of crime that is committed with the use of a destructive device, armor-piercing ammunition, a weapon of mass destruction, torture, lying in wait and poison. The crime is done deliberately, willfully and in a premeditated manner, and can attract a sentence of up to 25 years or life in prison.
First-Degree Murder will also invoke the state’s Felony Murder Rule since the crime is committed when other grave felony crimes are being committed.
Every other crime of Murder that does not fall under the First-Degree Murder category is Second-Degree Murder. Second-Degree Murder is punishable by up to 15 years of incarceration in prison.
Malice, as used to prove Murder cases, can be implied or expressed. Expressed malice happens when the perpetrator has specific intentions to Murder their victim. Implied malice is different and will occur when:
- The Murder resulted from intentional acts
- The results of the defendant’s acts are naturally dangerous to the life of a human being
- The defendant acted deliberately, knowing too well that their actions were dangerous to the victim and also with sensible disregard for human
Capital Murder is a type of First-Degree Murder but with special conditions. Because of the special conditions, Capital Murder is punishable by a death penalty, also called capital punishment in the state. The offender can also get a life imprisonment sentence with no chance for parole. The special conditions that elevate the First-Degree Murder to make it a Capital Murder are, for instance:
- Killing another person for monetary gain
- Killing more than one person at a go
- The killing of a peace officer such as a police officer, judge, firefighter or any other elected official
- Killing of a witness to stop them from testifying
- Killing a person because of their race, color, nationality, religion or country of their origin
Under the crime of Murder is the Felony Murder Rule, which applies to both first and Second-Degree Murder cases. The rule is used against people who Murder in the commission of another dangerous felony. The state of California does not tolerate people who Murder others while committing another felonious crime. Whether the death was accidental, intentional, or committed through negligent, it will be considered a felony if it was committed in furtherance of a different felony.
To successfully convict a person of Murder, the prosecutor has to prove the following elements of Murder beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the accused committed an act that resulted in the death of another person
- That the accused committed an act or Murder with malice aforethought
- That the accused indeed killed another person without any justification or legal excuse
Criminal Threats (Terrorism)
A criminal threat also referred to as a terrorist threat, is a serious violent crime in the state of California, covered under Section 422 of the state Penal Code. This section of the law makes it illegal for a person to threaten another person with instant harm when they intend to cause sustained and reasonable fear in that other person. For a person to be convicted of Criminal Threats, the prosecutor must demonstrate the following elements:
- That the defendant willfully threatened to seriously injure or kill another person
- That the defendant made verbal, written or electronically communicated statement to have it received as a threat by the other person
- That the defendant's threat was unconditional, unequivocal, particular and immediate in the way and circumstances under which it was delivered, which meant an immediate possibility of execution
- That the victim was left with reasonable fear for their safety, or safety of their immediate family.
It is important to note that Criminal Threats do not have to be delivered to the victims directly. A person can still be convicted of the crime even if they did not address their victims directly. As long as the defendant intended their statements to be taken as a threat, they can face the charges for criminal threat.
From the elements of this crime, we have:
- Threats to kill or seriously injure another person
- Threats made verbally, electronically or in written form. Electronically made threats can be conveyed through phone conversations, computers, emails, video recordings, texts, or fax.
- Fear- the defendant would not be guilty of Criminal Threats if they did not place their victims under reasonable fear. Fear, in this case, must be evident; it must be reasonable and sustained.
- Threats must be unconditional, unequivocal, immediate, and specific. They can also be conditional and empty. As long as they satisfy the above conditions, then the defendant will be convicted with Criminal Threats.
Punishments for Criminal Threats in California
Section 422 of the California Penal Code is a wobbler, which means that the prosecutor can charge the offense as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether you get a felony or misdemeanor is dependent on the circumstances surrounding the offense and the accused’s criminal history.
A misdemeanor criminal threat offense will be punished with a maximum of one year in jail and/or a fine of not more than $1000. If convicted as a felony, the offender can get up to three years of incarceration in state prison, and be required to pay a hefty fine of a maximum of $10,000. If a dangerous or deadly weapon were used to send the threat, the defendant would face an additional one year prison time, to be served consecutively with the original sentence.
If the defendant makes threats on more than one occasion or threatens more people at a go, they could face separate charges for every threat they make or every person they threaten.
Again a California felony criminal threat offense is a strike under the state’s Three Strikes Law. This means that the offender must serve at least 85% of their term behind bars before they can be considered for release on parole.
Domestic violence, also called Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant, is provided under Section 273.5 of California Statutes. According to this section of the law, it is illegal for a person to willfully inflict pain or physical injuries to their current or past intimate partner to the point that the pain or physical harm results in a traumatic condition.
Willfully, as used in this case, means that the person acted intentionally. The defendant will still be charged with the offense even if they did not have the intention of breaking the law.
The resulting traumatic condition will be any bodily injury or wound that would have resulted from the direct use of physical force by the offender. The traumatic condition does not have to be severe. A minor injury or wound that suffices as a result of domestic violence will still be considered as significant in convicting the offender. Some of the injuries that will be regarded as traumatic conditions in a case of domestic violence include:
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Bruises and other injuries that could result from strangulation or suffocation
Note that this traumatic condition needs to have resulted from the direct use of physical force for it to be applied here. For a defendant to be successfully convicted of this crime, the prosecutor needs to prove that the defendant’s actions caused their victim to undergo a traumatic condition.
An intimate partner, as used in this law, will be current or past:
- Cohabitant, or live-in girlfriend or boyfriend
- Registered domestic partner
- The parent of the accused’s child
- Fiancé (e)
- The person who was in a serious dating relationship with the defendant
Penalties for domestic violence in California
Domestic violence is a wobbler offense in the state of California, which means that it can be convicted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor has total discretion in deciding how to convict this offense, and his/her choice will be determined by:
- The facts surrounding the case
- The accused’s criminal history
- The gravity of the injuries sustained by the victim
As a misdemeanor, domestic violence can be punished with a maximum of one year behind bars and a fine amounting to $6,000. Then again, the judge might decide to give the defendant a misdemeanor or summary probation as an alternative to sending them to jail.
As a felony, domestic violence will be punished with two, three, or four years in prison, or a fine not exceeding $6,000 or both. In place of this punishment, the judge can decide to give the defendant formal or felony probation.
If the perpetrator has a preceding conviction of domestic violence, they will face a felony conviction even if the current case is not serious
Domestic violence with significant bodily injury, as provided under Section 273.5 of California Statutes is a strike.
The law against Assault in the state of California is provided under Section 240 of the state Penal Code. Assault, according to this law, is any attempt by a person to commit a violent injury on another.
Elements of Assault
These are the things that the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt for the defendant to be found guilty of the crime. These are:
- That the defendant acted in a way that could have directly resulted in the application of force on another person
- That the act was willful
- That the defendant was well aware that their actions would cause the other person to reasonably believe that their actions would probably and directly result in the application of force to them
- That when the offender acted, they could have applied force to the other person
Application or use of force as used in this case will mean any offensive or harmful touch on another person. This means that even a slight touch will count if it was done in an offensive or rude manner.
A person will still be charged with Assault even if the touching did not cause or could not cause any form of injury. Again, the touching can be direct or indirect (touching using an object).
Willfully means that the act was done on purpose. The case will still be there even if the act was not done to break the law, to cause harm to another person or even to gain an advantage over the other person.
Assault and Battery are used together in most cases, but in California, they are two different offenses. Assault, as under Section 240, is an unwanted touch on someone else that may inflict physical harm on them. Battery, as provided under Section 242, is the infliction of violence or force on another person.
Penalties for a California Assault
Like most violent crimes in the state, Assault is a wobbler, which means that it can be convicted as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
As a misdemeanor, the crime can be punished with either a misdemeanor or summary probation, incarceration for a maximum of six months in county jail and/or a fine of not more than $1000.
The penalties could be heightened if the Assault was committed against a peace officer, such as a police officer, traffic officer, firefighter, animal control officer, and process server, among others. In that case, the offender will be fined an amount of up to $2000, with jail time of up to one year.
If the crime was committed with caustic chemicals, it will be more severe and so will be convicted as a felony. In that case, the defendant may face up to four years of incarceration in state prison.
Other Violent Crimes in California include:
- Criminal Threats
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Battery on a Peace Officer
- False Imprisonment
- Manslaughter - Voluntary
- Manslaughter - Involuntary
- Weapons Charges
Possible Defenses Against California Violent Crimes
Violent crimes are the most severe types of crimes in California, punishable by hefty fines and many years of imprisonment. That is why anyone facing any violent crime charge should seek the help of a competent criminal defense attorney. A good attorney will utilize any possible defense strategy to have the judge reduce your charges or dismiss them altogether. Some of the defense strategies that can be used in this case include:
Self-defense or protection of other people
A person can cause injuries to another in self-defense or when they are defending others. In a matter of domestic violence, for instance, the defendant may have inflicted a traumatic condition on their partner in self-defense. If for example, the defendant had a reasonable belief that their life or the life of another person was in danger of physical injury, they may act violently in self-defense. Depending on the facts of the case, the court may find the accused not guilty of the violent crime charges they are facing.
The defendant did not act willfully
In most violent crimes, acting willfully is one of the essential elements that should be satisfied for the defendant to be found guilty of the offense. What this means is that you can only be found guilty of violence if your actions were intentional. However, if you did not intend to cause harm or injuries to another person, then you may not be guilty of the charges you are facing. In the case of an unintentional injury, for instance, a person may not be convicted even if the injury occurred in the heat of an argument. In this case, your attorney may convince the judge to dismiss your case, or your charges may be reduced to a less severe crime.
As mentioned earlier, so many people have been falsely accused of violent crimes in California. A person may accuse another of violence out of jealousy, anger, or the desire to take revenge. This means that it is possible to be arrested and arraigned in court for a violent crime even when you are innocent. In that case, an experienced criminal defense attorney will help fight the baseless allegations to get you out of jail and have your name cleared. This can be done through summoning the accused's text messages, emails, and looking through their social site accounts, questioning the alleged victim and also conducting a detailed background check on both the accused and the victim to verify the claims.
California statutes allow a defendant facing Murder charges to take a not guilty plea because of insanity. The legal standard for this in California is called the M'Naughten test. As provided by the M'Naughten test, the accused should be able to ascertain that they committed the offense because they could not distinguish between what is wrong and right or they could not comprehend the nature of the act. If your attorney can prove that you are not guilty of the offense through the insanity defense, your case will be dismissed. Note that this defense can only be used on certain violent crimes like Murder and not in all the others.
Find A Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer
Violent crimes are grave and thus, are severely punished in California. If you or your loved one is facing a violent crime charge, it will help to get in touch with the best criminal defense attorney. The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm comprises of a team of well-trained and experienced criminal defense attorneys who are always ready and willing to help their clients. With the right defense, the court may not find you guilty of the charges you are facing. Consequently, the court will either reduce or acquit you of your charges. Call us at 310-935-1675 and let us take you through the legal process.