If you have recently been arrested and charged with a violent crime in Los Angeles or throughout Southern California, you are facing potentially severe repercussions upon a conviction. While there is a wide range of sentencing guidelines even among violent felony crimes, all of them are treated very harshly, and some even can lead to life imprisonment or execution.
At Leah Legal, we have deep experience in handling all manner of California violent crime defense cases. We understand the details of the California Penal Code relative to these crimes, and we are fully familiar with the inner workings of local, L.A. Area courts.
Contact us anytime 24/7 for a free legal consultation by calling 818-484-1100, and we will waste no time in getting started on your case!
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What Is a "Violent Crime" Under California law?
The term "violent crime" is often used in a purely descriptive way, or even somewhat loosely, in everyday language. But in a legal setting, its definition is more definite and more specific.
Under California law, a "violent crime" is defined as any criminal activity that inflicts physical harm on another person, or that involves an attempt/threat to inflict such harm.
It is typical for a violent crime to be a felony, but certain misdemeanors may also qualify as violent crimes. And even among violent felonies, the use of a firearm or deadly weapon, the existence and extent of bodily injury inflicted on the victim, a crime being "gang related," or the defendant having previous felonies and violent crimes on his/her criminal record can all enhance an already severe sentence.
As to specific examples of violent crimes, we give you an overview of the main categories just below. But be sure to look up the relevant charge-specific pages here on our website to get more detailed information about each particular type of violent crime.
PC 240 is the statute covering "simple assault," which refers to the attempt to inflict unlawful bodily injury on another person. It differs from battery in that battery is the actual carrying out of that attempt.
To prove someone guilty of assault, the prosecution must show that he/she willfully (i.e. not accidentally) committed an act that was likely to cause bodily injury to another person.
It must also be shown that the defendant knew, or can reasonably be expected to have known, that his/her actions would likely injure another person. And, finally, you must have had the ability to carry the act out to be convicted (it can't be an empty threat to do something you obviously couldn't have done.)
Simple assault is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
But assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245.a1), where you used a weapon or force likely to cause "great bodily harm" to the victim is a felony, punishable by anywhere from a year in county jail to 4 years in state prison, plus a $10,000 fine.
Common defenses we use against assault charges include: self defense, defense of others, lack of intent (it was an accident or misunderstanding), lack of ability to carry out the assault, false accusation, and lack of sufficient evidence.
PC 242 is California's battery statute. "Battery" is defined the same way as "assault" except for one difference: physical contact took place. Technically, even the slightest touch can make the difference between assault and battery.
If actual physical harm was inflicted on the victim, especially "great bodily injury," then the battery charge will be much more serious and punished more severely than if a touch took place but without any harm done (but it can still be charged as battery nonetheless.)
Battery involves touching in a harmful or offensive manner, intentionally, against the will of the one touched. With no harm inflicted, it is a misdemeanor, but when serious injury is caused, it's a felony and can be punished by up to 4 years in state prison.
Common defenses are self defense, defense of others, and exercise of reasonable discipline on a child.
Finally, note that when committed against a domestic partner, battery becomes "domestic battery" and carries an enhanced sentence.
PC 243.4 covers the crime of sexual assault, also called sexual battery. Anytime unwanted touching of someone's "intimate parts" takes place, it is an act of sexual assault.
"Intimate parts" are defined as sex organs, the anus, the butt, or female breasts. The touching must have been done for the purpose of sexual gratification or abuse, and not for a lawful purpose. It doesn't matter, however, if the touching was direct to skin or through the clothes.
Note that if the assault culminated in forced sex, it would be charged as rape, a more serious crime, and not as sexual assault.
Sexual assault can be a misdemeanor, but as a felony, it is punishable by anywhere from 12 months in county jail to 4 years in state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Consent is one of the most common defenses against sexual assault, though accidental touching or fabricated accusations are also possible defenses.
PC 261 defines the crime of "rape" as non-consensual sexual intercourse that was carried out through force, threat, or fraud (deceit). If a victim was passed out (unconscious) or not capable of giving legal consent, it also counts as rape.
If rape is committed against a minor (even by another minor), it is statutory rape under PC 261.5.
If one rapes his/her spouse, it is spousal rape under PC 262.
When rapes take the form of oral sex, it is oral copulation by force under PC 266.
A "simple" rape conviction under PC 261 is punishable by 3 to 8 years in state prison, and you can get up to 13 years for the rape of a minor. Penalties can vary greatly, however, based on the specific class of rape, the details of the case, and the defendant's past criminal history.
At Leah Legal, we realize how common false rape charges are, and we know how to defeat false and flimsy allegations. Defenses we use against rape charges include: false accusation, lack of evidence, mistaken identity, lack of intercourse, and consent or reasonable belief consent existed.
Domestic Violence Crimes
Domestic violence is a broad-brush umbrella term under California law, inclusive of many specific offenses. The common factor that ties them all together is the class of person against whom they were committed.
When battery, assault, and other crimes are committed against a spouse, former spouse, fiancé, other romantic partner, or the parent of your child, it becomes a domestic violence crime. Crimes against your child or elderly people can also count as domestic violence.
Corporal injury to a spouse (PC 273.5), Domestic Battery (243.e1), Child Abuse (PC 273d), Elder Abuse (PC 368), and Criminal Threats (PC 422) are specific examples of domestic violence crimes. Penalties will vary greatly, depending on the specific crime, the details of your case, prior criminal record, and other factors.
At Leah Legal, we have numerous effective defenses we use against domestic violence charges, a class of crime that is frequently falsely charged.
Robbery & Armed Robbery
PC 211 is California's robbery statute. "Robbery" is defined as the taking of another person's property, against his/her will, off his/her person or from in his/her immediate presence, and by means of force/fear.
Robbery is always a felony in California. First-degree robbery, committed in an inhabited structure, at an ATM machine, or on public transportation, is punishable by 3 to 9 years in state prison. Second-degree robbery (all other situations) is punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison.
Armed robbery adds 10 years to your sentence, 20 years if you fired the gun, and can get you 25 years to life in prison if you killed or badly injured someone with the gun.
Common defenses against a robbery charge include: no force/fear was used to take the property, the property was yours or you reasonably believed it to be yours, mistaken identity, and false accusation.
Murder & Attempted Murder
Under PC 187, there are three levels of "murder" in California. First-degree murder takes place after premeditation, by means of explosives, WMDs, or certain other devices, while torturing someone, or while committing another felony crime.
Second-degree murder applies to many cases where you commit a felony or an inherently dangerous act and someone dies as a result. Vehicular manslaughter, often while intoxicated, is an example of second-degree murder.
Capital murder applies to certain extreme cases like drive-by shooting murders, murder based on racism, committing multiple murders at once, murdering for money, or murdering a police officer.
Even the lowest term for a 2nd-degree murder conviction is 15 years in prison, and 25 years to life, or the death penalty are possible penalties.
If it can be shown that your actions did not result in the death of another person/fetus or that you had no "malice aforethought," you will be found innocent. Self-defense, defense of others, and false accusation are also common defenses.
Attempted murder (PC 664) occurs when someone intends to kill another person and takes at least one "direct step" toward doing so, provided the victim does not actually die. In the first degree, attempted murder is punished by life in prison, but with parole possible. Second-degree attempted murder is typically punished by 5 to 9 years in state prison.
Other Violent Crimes
The above are not nearly the full list of California violent crimes, and we at Leah Legal can also defend you against such allegations as arson, stalking, torture, firearms/weapons related charges, issuing terrorist threats, kidnapping, gang related crimes, and more.
Most violent crimes tend to be felonies and carry stiff punishments. Heavy fines, long terms in state prison, or even life imprisonment or death are all possible penalties. We at Leah Legal are fully familiar with California's legal definitions of various violent crimes and with the court processes involved in defending against a violent crime charge. We know how to form a "customized" defense strategy that fits the details of your case and puts pressure on inherent weaknesses in the prosecution's case.
The Three Strikes Law
Anytime you are facing a violent crime charge, you need to be aware of California's "Three Strikes" Law. This piece of legislation affects the sentence of those committed of various repeat violent felonies/crimes.
Crimes qualifying as "strikes" on your criminal record include: rape, various sex crimes, robbery, firearm crimes, murder, and more. A second strike will result in a doubled prison sentence, while a third strike will get you a term of 25 years to life in prison.
The Three Strikes Law makes it all the more important to keep a violent crime conviction off your record. At Leah Legal, we understand what is at stake when you face a first-time or repeat violent crime charge, and we know how to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome to your case.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Leah Legal, we have a strong track record of winning for our clients against a violent crime allegation. We know how to find exculpatory and mitigating evidence in your favor and how to challenge the evidence upon which the prosecution's case rests. We also are skilled at cross-examining witnesses to expose weaknesses in testimony brought against you.
Our first goal is always to get your case dismissed by filing pretrial motions and other measures that cause the prosecution to doubt the ability to win their case. Then, we fight skillfully and tenaciously to win in court by strong argument and solid evidence in your behalf. And even when a dismissal/acquittal is unrealistic, we know how to use our well honed negotiation skills to secure you a reduced charge and/or sentence that will significantly benefit you.