Violent crimes are usually penalized more harshly than nonviolent ones. This is because there’s often a victim involved, especially one who has been harmed, threatened, or killed. An attack on another person always elicits a harsher response from the court than an offense that doesn’t involve physical harm. This means if you’re facing charges for a violent crime, you could be sent to prison for a longer period if convicted.
A violent crime conviction changes your life for the worst, and when you have a lot to lose, you have to seek help from our criminal defense team at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. We will fight to ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your case. It could be a case dismissal, and if that isn’t possible, charge reduction. Call us today, and we will start working on your case right away.
Violent Crimes Overview
A violent crime is an offense in which the perpetrator or offender applies or threatens to use force on a victim. These crimes entail violations in which the violent act is the objective, like rape, and those where violence is applied as a form of coercion. A violent crime may or may not be committed with weapons.
Several years back, California lawmakers, partly as a response to the system’s underfunding, reclassified various criminal conduct. Any misconduct less severe than a drug crime whereby weapons aren’t involved, such as theft, isn’t considered violent.
Types of California Violent Offenses
Violent crimes are described under Penal Code 667.5(c). They carry additional punishments for a conviction like a sentence enhancement and a strike on your criminal record. These crimes are:
PC 187, Murder (Also Known As Homicide)
Murder is one of the most misunderstood criminal terms. The broad category of offenses that lead to the demise of someone else is homicide. Most people often use the term homicide interchangeably with murder. Homicide isn’t an offense but a class of crimes. We have three misconducts within the homicide category— manslaughter, murder in the second degree, and murder in the first degree. Manslaughter could be vehicular, involuntary, or voluntary.
Murder is the illegal killing of someone else with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought isn’t the standard definition of malice, i.e., ill-will. Instead, it refers to instances where you had the intent to:
- Cause severe bodily injury
- Engage in a given activity that’s likely to cause severe bodily harm or death of another person
Murder is among the most prevalent violent offenses in California. Generally, the consequences for homicide are lighter as you go down the list. Murder in the first degree carries the harshest punishments, while vehicular or involuntary manslaughter has the least severe consequences.
PC 286(c) or (d), Sodomy
Sodomy is the sexual conduct that involves the penis of one party and the anus of another. Any sexual penetration, regardless of how slight, is enough to complete the sodomy offense. You could be charged with sodomy under Penal Code 286(c) in case:
- You committed a sodomy act.
- The victim was below fourteen years old.
- The age gap between you and the victim is over ten years.
And you may be charged with sodomy under PC 286(d) if:
- You acted voluntarily in concert with someone else (aiding & abetting or personally)
- You committed a sodomy act.
- You committed sodomy through force, duress, violence, fear of immediate & illegal physical injury upon the victim/someone else, menace, or where you accomplished the act against the victim’s will by threatening to retaliate against them or someone else.
- There’s a reasonable chance that you’ll carry out the threat.
If you’re found guilty of sodomy under PC 286(c), your punishment will be three, six, or eight years of a prison sentence. The crime also counts as a strike on your criminal record per the Three Strikes Law. Additionally, there’s the sex offender registration requirement per Pc 290.
PC 261, Rape
Rape means having sex with someone else without their consent, your spouse included. You could be accused of this crime even when you didn’t have the intent to engage in non-consensual sexual intercourse. If the victim was unconscious, impaired to a point they couldn’t consent to the intercourse, or disabled, you could also face rape charges.
Rape is charged as a felony. Its punishment includes a maximum fine of $10,000 and incarceration. Your prison time bases on the specific facts surrounding your charges:
- Where the victim was a grownup and wasn’t your wife/husband, you could spend three, six, or eight years in state prison.
- If the victim was below fourteen years old, your prison sentence is nine, eleven, or thirteen years.
- If the victim was between fourteen and eighteen years, you could serve seven, nine, or eleven years of a prison sentence.
- If you are found guilty of having non-consensual sex with your spouse, your prison sentence will be three, six, or eight years.
- Where you’re found guilty of rape in concert (to mean other parties helped you) or by force, you will serve five, seven, or nine years in prison. If the victim was below fourteen years, the sentence is ten, twelve, or fourteen years in prison. If they’re between fourteen and eighteen years old, the penalty will be seven, nine, or eleven years in prison.
- If the victim was substantially injured, you might face an extra three-five years.
PC 203, Mayhem
If you illegally and maliciously:
- Deprive another person of a member of their body, or
- Disable, disfigure, or render it useless, or
- Cut or disable the tongue, or
- Put out their eye, or
- Slit their ear, lip, or nose; then you are guilty of mayhem.
If you’re convicted of mayhem, you’ll face two, four, or eight years of a state prison sentence. You should talk to an experienced violent crimes lawyer for help if you face charges because of how severe mayhem consequences are.
Other violent crimes are:
- PC 192(a), Voluntary Manslaughter
- Penal Code 136.1, Threats to Witnesses or Victims
- PC 288, Oral Copulation per subdivisions (c) and (d)
- PC 288 subdivisions (a) and (b), Lascivious or lewd acts on a child below 14 years
- Arson as defined in subdivisions (a) and (b) of PC451
- PC 664, attempted murder
- PC 207, Kidnapping
- Forcible acts of sexual penetration as defined under subdivisions (a) and (j) of PC 289
- PC 264.1, spousal rape, rape, or sexual penetration of anal or genital openings by a foreign object, acting in concert of violence or force.
- PC 518, Extortion
- PC 211, robbery
- PC 215(a), Carjacking
- PC 220, assault intending to commit a specified felony.
- Penal Code 460 (a), first-degree burglary
- Any felony whose punishment is life imprisonment or death
- Any felony whereby the accused causes significant bodily injury on somebody else who is not an accomplice
- Penal Code 288.5, continuous sexual abuse of a minor
- A violation of PC 12310, 12309, or 12308 (with regard to explosives or destructive devices)
- PC 12022.53 violation
- A violation of subsection (b) or (c) of PC 11418 (relating to weapons of mass destruction)
- PC 245, assault with a deadly weapon
Violent Offenses and the Three Strikes Law (PC 667)
Described under PC 667, the Three Strikes Law refers to a sentencing scheme and not an offense. In essence, it means that upon a third violent or serious felony conviction, you may receive twenty-five years to life in a prison sentence.
Initially, the three-strikes law targeted violent crimes mostly, but California widened the list of felony crimes that are considered strikes. Before Proposition 36, a strike was any felony conviction, including wobblers or nonviolent offenses.
Before Proposition 36, the court could impose twenty-five years to life imprisonment sentences to any person found guilty of any felony offense after two prior convictions of violent felonies. Therefore, if your third strike were, for instance, commercial burglary or controlled substance possession, your prison sentence would be twenty-five years to life.
But after the state voters passed Proposition 36 in November 2012, the twenty-five years to life imprisonment sentence can only be imposed if all of your three felony convictions were for violent or serious felonies (with a few exceptions). Instead, the DA can only request for an enhancement that doubles your sentence. Additionally, Proposition 36 is retroactive, and if you received a sentence enhancement for a nonviolent third felony, you might qualify to reduce your sentence.
But as mentioned above, there are a few exceptions whereby you could still serve twenty-five years to life in prison even if all of your three strikes are non-violent crimes. These exceptions include if:
- Your third crime involves manufacturing or possession for transportation or sale of hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine,
- Your third crime involved a gun, or you had the intent to inflict significant bodily injury,
- Your third crime is a felony sex offense or is one that obligates you to register as a sex offender,
- If any of your earlier strikes is an offense like sexually violent misconduct, murder, or a felony whereby the possible punishment was life in prison
Sentence Enhancements for Violent Offenses Convictions (PC 12022.53, 186.22, 12022.7)
The judge will add prison time to your original sentence if:
- The supposed victim sustained substantial physical injury,
- You committed the crime in furtherance of gang activity, for a gang’s benefit, in association with it or at its direction, or
- You used a gun
An enhancement refers to the additional imprisonment term added to the original time. The DA imposes a sentence enhancement due to the crime’s nature or if you have a past qualifying conviction. The most prevalent forms of California enhancements are for offenses that involve firearms, gang activity, and significant bodily injury. They are as follows:
- If the supposed victim sustained substantial bodily injury per PC 12022.7, you would be subject to an additional three to six-year prison time.
- If the DA proves that you committed the crime to benefit or help a gang, a PC 186.22 sentence enhancement applies. Here, you will face an additional fifteen years to life in prison.
- If you used a firearm, your case would trigger a PC 12022.53 sentence enhancement. Using a gun could subject you to an additional ten years of a prison sentence. If you fired the gun, you could face an additional prison sentence of twenty years. And if you severely injured or killed someone, you could face an additional twenty-five years to life imprisonment.
Violent Crime Charges Can Be Reduced
Violent crime charges can be lowered to more lenient ones, and you can do this in different ways. For instance, it could be done through negotiations. Every felony offense has a mini-trial halfway through, known as a preliminary hearing. The hearing is the same as a bench trial whereby there’s no jury— only a judge who determines if there’s probable cause. He/she will look into the evidence and decide if there’s sufficient proof to believe a felony was committed. If your charge is a wobbler or the lesser included offense is a wobbler, you could file a motion during the preliminary hearing seeking it to be lowered to a misdemeanor. That is one of the ways, and your criminal defense lawyer can help you achieve it.
California laws on violent crimes are quite complicated since they prohibit plea-bargaining in a few of the offenses. You need to persuade the DA to dismiss the charges against you and refile different ones. The theory here is that the DAs can’t overcharge so that they can have you plead to a lesser crime or as charged with a reduced sentence because plea bargaining isn’t permitted before the preliminary hearing.
This was passed into law since most people were annoyed that severe cases were being plea-bargained down, and they sought a tougher disposition on the punishment of offenses. It also did have the impact of requiring the DAs to be extremely careful about how they prosecute cases. For instance, they shouldn’t charge those offenses that can’t be plea-bargained unless they think it is a crime substantiated by the proof they have.
Most Violent Offenses Are Charged As Felonies
Most California violent crimes are categorized as felonies, with a few like simple battery classified as misdemeanors. We also have offenses that are wobblers. Wobblers are ‘alternative felonies,’ meaning the prosecutor can charge them as either misdemeanors or felonies. The prosecutor can also start prosecuting them as felonies and later reduce them to misdemeanors. Common wobblers are Penal Code 273.5, corporal injury, Penal Code 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon, Vehicle Code 2800.2, evading police, and Penal Code 243.4, sexual battery.
Why You Should Hire an Attorney If Facing Violent Crime Charges
You want to retain a skilled violet crimes defense lawyer since the implications are severe and the consequences you might face are serious. For instance, you may face prison time, jail time, hefty fines, and a severe impact on your criminal record. Some sex offenses would require you to register as a sex offender for life. When the punishments are severe, you ought to have an experienced professional to handle them. Experience is the best way to address violent cases. An experienced lawyer knows how to not overreact to the accusations the prosecutor is making against you, question how they will obtain the information they require out of witnesses, what a good deal looks like, and when to advise you to proceed to trial.
Knowing what questions to ask witnesses or what proof ought to be presented or developed takes a lot of experience. There’s forensic evidence, circumstantial proof, eyewitnesses’ testimony, and other types of evidence. Forensic evidence means blood, fiber, fingerprints, DNA, etc. You want a lawyer who is capable of handling them properly in court and understand the science involved. An experienced lawyer would know how they can manage the witnesses in your case and ask appropriate questions before the jury. Several factors are included in the California jury instructions that address witnesses’ credibility, whether they’re truthful and honest, and whether they’re reliable. If you retain the right lawyer, they’ll either tear down or build up the witnesses’ credibility.
A person’s mind isn’t a camera. It does not take another person’s picture and then just remember the photo when it sees the person a second time. It only remembers a few details like their nose, hair color, and other similar features, and we have numerous factors that determine whether an eyewitness’s identification is correct. Was the individual under stress? Did he/she have any object in his/her hands? Was it during the night or day? An experienced lawyer understands Cross-Ratio Problems as far as identification is concerned. For instance, persons of one race are generally poor at identifying persons of a different race. Witness identifications aren’t as reliable as most people think, and an experienced lawyer would capitalize on these questionable areas.
Can Violent Offenses Ever Be Expunged or Pardoned?
The end goal with criminal cases isn’t to be found innocent, seal & destroy your criminal records, be pardoned, petition for dismissal by way of expungement, or be awarded a rehabilitation certificate.
Technically, there’s nothing like an expungement in California. What happens is that there’s the section of the law that provides that after completing your sentence or probation, you could request the court to dismiss that sentence/probation. The expungement process for California violent crimes is tricky. Thus, it needs the services of a skilled violent offenses expungement attorney in Riverside.
For many cases, you’re entitled to an expungement provided you have served your probation, satisfied all the probation terms & conditions (such as classes, restitution, fines, or counseling), and served any ordered jail sentence. You won’t qualify for an expungement if you did a prison sentence, and we have a few specific charges that can’t be expunged. They are:
- Misdemeanor VC 42002.1, failure to stop and submit to inspection with past evading convictions
- Any violation of the following PC sections:
- 288, Lascivious or lewd conduct
- 286(c), sodomy— when the victim is below fourteen years or over ten years older
- 287, oral copulation with a minor below fourteen years or more than ten years older
- 289(j), forcible sexual penetration of a child below fourteen years or over ten years older
- 5, continuous sexual abuse of a minor
- 2, Distribution/sale of child porn
- 1, child porn distribution
- 3, sexual exploitation of a child
- 11, child pornography possession
- A felony violation of PC 261.5(d), unlawful sexual intercourse with a child
We have few exceptions to this, but this does not mean everything disappears, except if you are pardoned or receive a Finding of Factual Innocence, a process where you state not only were you not guilty, but you should never have been taken to court, to begin with. Under these two circumstances, you can eliminate the criminal record of what took place. The record is then sealed & destroyed under a Finding of Factual Innocence. The records aren’t necessarily sealed & released under a pardon. However, they show that you were eventually pardoned.
Being pardoned does not mean you did not commit the crime. It means you might have done it, but you have since cleaned yourself up and deserve forgiveness. Except for the Finding of Factual Innocence under PC 851.8, there’s no delete button in the highly computerized state court system you can ever push to have all your criminal records disappear entirely. There’s no way every piece of paper associated with your case would be wiped out so no one can ever see it. Even an expungement only changes the conviction language to say it was dismissed instead of saying you were convicted. This is still advantageous to you as far as hiring is concerned, particularly with the Fair Employment laws changes (ban the box).
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Apart from hefty fines and imprisonment, a conviction of a violent crime can make you lose particular rights, for instance, the right to possess a gun. It could also affect your chances of being employed, renting a house, or make you lose child custody or visitation rights. These are the more reasons you ought to fight hard to prove your innocence if you face charges, and an attorney is a better-placed person to help you do so.
At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we will investigate your case thoroughly to build a solid defense, as we seek a plea to a case dismissal or lesser charges. We know what it takes to win severe charges as those of violent crimes. To discuss your case, your options, and what more we can do for you, call us at 951-946-6366 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.