Facing charges for a violent offense is a tough ordeal in California. A conviction for a violent offense carries severe consequences, including a lengthy prison term, hefty penalties, prison term enhancement, and a strike on the offender’s criminal record. Additionally, the legal process can be a challenge, especially for a person who has not been arrested before. That is why it is advisable to engage an experienced criminal attorney’s services if you face violent crime charges in Anaheim, CA. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have been around long enough to know the right approach, even for the toughest criminal case. We’ll protect your rights, guide you through all court processes, and be there to defend you against those charges.
Overview of California Violent Crimes
All criminal acts with a violent aspect in California are categorized under violent crimes. These offenses are prosecuted mainly as felonies, and a conviction can land you in prison for years. It helps to understand the details of your charges and how a conviction can affect your life if you face criminal charges for a violent offense today.
One of the reasons why violent crimes are severely punished in the state is that most offenses involve actions committed by people who express intent to harm others. Some offenses inflict physical injuries on victims. Others cause the victim’s death, while others leave their victims afraid for their safety and their loved ones’ safety.
Here is an overview of the most common violent crimes in California:
Murder — California PC 187
California laws define murder as the illegal killing of a person by another, accomplished with malicious aforethought. As used under this law, malice aforethought means that the defendant intended to do any of the following:
- Take the life of another person.
- Cause another person to incur serious bodily injury
- Engage in an act that is expected to cause the death of or serious physical injury to another person
Murder is a broad category, with several offenses under it, each of which carries different but severe penalties.
First-degree murder is top on the list. You commit first-degree murder if you willfully and premeditatedly take the life of another person. You could be convicted of first-degree murder if your action included the following:
- Lying in wait
- A dangerous or destructive device
- An explosive
- Knowingly using an armor-piercing ammo
- Use of a weapon of mass destruction
- Any act that could be interpreted as deliberate, willful, and premeditated
- Discharging a gun from a car intending to kill
- Killing while committing a specific or series of felonies
First-degree murder is punished by life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, death, or 25-years-to-life in prison.
Second-degree murder includes any other homicide that doesn’t include malice aforethought and doesn’t meet the abovementioned elements. A sentence for this offense is punished by a minimum of fifteen years in prison.
Voluntary Manslaughter — California PC 192
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person kills another person in the heat of passion, during an unexpected quarrel, or during an honest but unreasonable belief that the defendant needed to defend him/herself.
California laws have three categories of manslaughter offenses: voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter. However, it is only voluntary manslaughter that’s listed as a violent offense.
The offense involves the loss of life, just like murder. The only difference is the motive behind the murder. For voluntary manslaughter, the offender commits the offense due to extreme emotion. Since his/her actions were not premeditated, the offense cannot be prosecuted as murder. And since the defendant intended to harm the victim physically, the offense cannot be termed as involuntary.
In some cases, voluntary manslaughter comes as a result of inadequate self-defense. For example, when two people argue, and the first one believes that they could be in danger of suffering serious harm from the second person. The first person then acts fast to protect his/her life but ends up taking the second person’s life.
Voluntary manslaughter is also severely punished in California. Upon conviction, you might receive three to eleven years of prison time.
Mayhem — California Penal Code 203
California laws define mayhem as unlawfully and maliciously doing any of the following acts on another person:
- Removing one or more parts of the person’s body
- Disabling or rendering one or more parts of the person’s body useless in a severe and permanent way
- Causing the other person to suffer a permanent disfigurement
- Cutting the person’s tongue or disabling it
- Slitting the person’s ear, lip, or nose
- Removing the person’s ear or causing a severe injury on the person’s ear in a way that makes the ear dysfunctional for the rest of the person’s life
Mayhem can be simple or aggravated. Aggravated mayhem includes intentionally causing another person a permanent disfigurement or disability or depriving them of an organ, member, or limb.
Both offenses are prosecuted as felonies. A conviction under California PC Section 203 could result in two, four, or eight years of imprisonment if you’re found guilty. On top of that, you could be required to pay a maximum fine of $10,000.
On the other hand, aggravated mayhem, under California PC 205, can result in life imprisonment if you’re found guilty.
Rape — California PC 261
Rape is committed when a person uses fraud, force, or threats of force to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person to whom the offender is not married. A person can still be guilty of rape even when he/she didn’t mean to engage in non-consensual sex. If you committed the offense against an impaired or disabled person who is incapable of consenting to the act, you could be charged with rape. Here are some of the acts that can be considered rape under Section 261 of California PC:
- Engaging in non-consensual sexual acts with a person who is incapable of consenting due to a mental disorder
- Engaging in sexual intercourse with another person through force, coercion, or violence
- Engaging in sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consenting due to intoxication
- Engaging in sexual acts with a person that is unconscious of the act
Rape is a serious felony, a conviction of which could be punished by:
- Imprisonment for a maximum of eight years
- Formal or felony probation
Additionally, you may not be eligible for expungement under California expungement laws unless the court awarded you felony probation.
Rape is also an offense whose conviction will affect your gun rights. After conviction, you will not be allowed to own or purchase a firearm.
Lastly, the victim can also sue you in a civil court for damages like medical costs, lost wages, psychological counseling, and punitive damages.
Sodomy — California PC 286c
California Penal Code Section 286 makes sodomy an offense when it happens without the second party’s consent or when the victim is a child of below 18 years. Sodomy is defined as sexual contact between a person’s penis with another’s anus. Any amount of penetration, however slight, is enough to support sodomy charges.
Sub-section (c) of California PC 286 provides the legal definition of sodomy as a violent crime. You could be found guilty under PC 286(c) if the following elements are true:
- That you committed sodomy
- That the alleged victim was a minor of below 14 years
- That the difference in age between you and the minor was ten years or more
Sodomy is also considered a crime of violence if it is committed under violence, force, coercion, or fear.
If you’re convicted under Section 286(c) of California PC, you will likely receive a prison term of three, six, or eight years. The offense is also a strike in California, under the Three-Strike law. It means that the conviction will significantly affect any other convictions that might come in the future.
Additionally, you‘ll be ordered to list yourself as a state sex offender, according to California PC 290. Any person who conducts a background check on you will access this information.
Oral Copulation— California PC 288a(c)/288a(d)
You could be guilty of committing oral copulation as defined under Section 288a(c) if the following elements are true:
- That you committed oral copulation
- You committed the act on a minor below the age of 14 years
- You accomplished the act through violence, force, coercion, or fear of bodily harm or intimidation
If you’re found guilty of this offense as defined, you’re likely to receive a prison sentence of six, eight, or ten years. Additionally, you’ll be required to list yourself as a state sex offender, as provided under California PC Section 290.
On the other hand, California oral copulation as provided under Section 288a(d) is punished by a prison sentence of five, seven, or nine years. It also carries the requirement to register yourself as a sex offender. The following elements define oral copulation under this law:
- You voluntarily acted together with another individual — Could be personally or in aiding or abetting.
- You committed oral copulation.
- You committed the act through force, violence, or fear of harm or intimidation. Or you acted through threats to retaliate against the alleged victim or someone else, and you had the reasonable means to carry out the threat.
- The alleged victim was incapable of granting legal consent due to a mental, physical, or developmental disability, which you were well aware, or should have reasonably known.
Lascivious or Lewd Acts With a Minor — PC 288a and PC 288b
PC 288a of California Penal Law defines lascivious or lewd acts as child molestation. The offense is committed when:
- You act willfully
- You engage in a lascivious or lewd act
- You commit the act on any part of a child’s body — The child in question must be a minor of 14 years or below.
- You commit the act intending to appeal to, arouse or gratify your sexual fantasies.
The penalties for anyone convicted under PC 288a are three, six, or eight years of imprisonment. The conviction also carries the court’s order for the offender to list themselves as a state sex offender under California PC 290.
PC 288b of the state Penal Law includes committing lascivious or lewd against a minor below 14 years and using fear, duress, force, or menace. Penalties for conviction under this law are subject to enhancement if the following statements are true:
- That you willfully committed a lascivious or lewd act as provided under PC 288a
- That you committed the act under force, menace, duress, or fear of imminent harm on the alleged victim or someone else.
A conviction under PC 288b attracts a prison sentence of five, eight, or ten years and a requirement for the offender to be listed under the state’s registry for sex offenders.
Robbery — California PC 211
Under California PC 211, robbery is defined as a felonious act of taking personal property from the ownership/control of another person, whether from the person’s person or his/her immediate presence. The offense must have been committed against the other person’s will and accomplished through fear or force.
To be found guilty of robbery, a prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you took a property or properties that were not your own
- That the property was in possession of another person at the time
- That you took that property from the other person’s immediate presence
- That you took the property against its owner’s will
- You accomplished the offense through force or fear to prevent the other person from resisting
- When you applied force or fear to take the property, you intended to deprive the owner of his/her property permanently or for a long enough time to deprive the owner of a large portion of the property’s value.
The offense of robbery is divided into two degrees:
The first-degree robbery occurs when:
- Robbery is committed against a driver or passenger of a taxi, bus, streetcar, cable car, subway, or trackless trolley, among other similar transportations.
- The offense is committed in a boat, trailer, or inhabited house
- The offense is committed while the alleged victim is using an ATM or immediately after
The offense is punished by three, four, or six years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
Second-degree robbery is any other robbery that doesn’t meet the definitions above. It is also a felony offense, punishable by two, three, or five years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Kidnapping — California PC 207
California laws define kidnapping as the forcible moving of a person by another, from one location to another against the person’s will. The move must be made over a substantial distance, without the person’s consent and using fear or force.
Kidnapping offense can be simple or aggravated, based on the facts of the case. Kidnapping is a grave offense in California, explaining why simple kidnapping is also a felony and attracts a prison sentence of up to eight years. If the victim of kidnapping is a child, the victim loses his/her life, the defendant demands a ransom, or the offense is committed in a kidnapping course, the offender can face life in prison.
Aggravated kidnapping occurs when the defendant uses fraud, fear, or force to commit the offense. Additionally, the offense must meet any of the following criteria:
- The alleged victim is a minor of 14 years or younger — PC 208
- The kidnapping was committed for demanding a ransom — 209
- The alleged victim died or incurred a serious bodily injury in the process — PC 209
- The kidnapping happened in the course of carjacking — PC 209.5
When kidnapping involves a child below 14 years, a conviction might carry five, eight, or eleven years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
A sentence for aggravated kidnapping could also carry a life in prison sentence with a chance for parole.
Possible Legal Defenses for Violent Crimes Charges in California
Violent crimes are serious felonies in California. They carry very harsh penalties and life-changing consequences after a conviction. The only way to avoid a conviction if you face charges for violent crimes in California is to hire the services of an experienced criminal attorney. A good attorney will study your case’s facts and then design a solid defense that could compel the court to either drop or reduce your charges. The good thing is that several legal defenses could be applied in your case. Some of the common legal strategies that your attorney can apply in your defense include:
Self-defense is a widely accepted legal strategy for most violent crimes in California. The law understands that a person might be compelled to use more force than necessary to defend themselves or others, especially if they have a strong reason to believe that their life or the life of another person is in danger.
For example, a person can cause another person’s death while trying to defend themselves from being killed, raped, robbed, or suffering a serious bodily injury. The law permits the use of reasonable force to defend yourself or another person if you feel that you are at risk of suffering harm at another’s hands.
However, the court will consider several factors before accepting self-defense as your reason for committing a violent crime:
- Proof of belief that you or another person was in imminent danger of suffering harm or dying
- Proof that the amount of force you used was necessary under the circumstances
- Proof that at least one of those beliefs was reasonable
If your defense is accepted in court, the jury will drop or reduce your charges. Reducing charges means that you will no longer have to face the full consequences of the underlying violent crime but less severe penalties for a more lenient offense.
If your case was an accident, your attorney could use this defense to have the court drop or reduce your charges.
However, this defense can only be applied to some violent crimes and not others. For instance, you can kill or mayhem by accident and not rape by accident.
Before the court accepts this defense, the jury will consider some factors like:
- If you had a criminal intent to cause harm to the other person
- If you were negligent when you acted the way you did to cause the accident
- If you were engaging in an illegal act at the time of the accident
The findings of the court will determine whether or not the jury will drop or reduce your charges.
Some people falsely accuse others of severe offenses like violent crimes. You might be facing false accusations because another person is jealous of you, they are getting back on you for something you did in the past, or they are angry at you for a reason.
The real offender may even point fingers at another person, to the police, members of the public, or even to the victim, to avoid a conviction.
In other instances, the alleged victim could have injured themselves to blame another person for personal reasons.
If you face false accusations for a violent crime you did not commit, it helps to engage the services of a highly skilled attorney. An experienced attorney will know the right expert help to use to prove your innocence in court. He/she will know the kind of forensic evidence to gather and how to use various investigative techniques to gather sufficient evidence in favor of your situation.
There Was Consent
This is an excellent strategy to use if you face charges for a sex-related violent crime like rape. A criminal court cannot find you guilty of rape if the alleged victim consented to have sexual intercourse. But for this strategy to work, your attorney must convince the court that you reasonably believed that the other person consented to the intercourse.
However, this strategy cannot be used in defense if the alleged victim was a minor, disabled, or an intoxicated/unconscious person.
Find an California Criminal Lawyer Group Near Me
California violent crimes are quite serious, carrying hefty penalties and life-changing consequences. The only way to avoid a conviction if you face charges for a violent crime in Anaheim, CA, is by engaging the services of an experienced criminal attorney. Your attorney will protect your rights throughout the process and develop a solid defense against your charges. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have a strong team of experienced criminal attorneys that is willing to use their skills and strategies to have your charges dropped or reduced. Call us at 714-766-0965 today, and let us study the details of your case.