There are several criminal activities that California law defines as violent crimes. These violent crimes are prosecuted as felony offenses. When you or your loved one is involved in a violent crime, you may cause harm to someone without intending. If you face charges, the prosecution will try to prove that your actions injured someone. That is why you need to have a criminal defense attorney by your side.

Facing a criminal charge is a serious issue that can have long-lasting effects on your life. Your livelihood depends on your ability to obtain justice, and for this to happen, you will need to have fair representation. At Koenig Law Office, we will work hard to ensure you achieve the best outcome. Our team will offer quality legal advice and walk you through the entire process. This article gives you an overview of violent crimes in California and how they are prosecuted.

Definition of a California Violent Crime

California describes a violent crime under Penal Code 667.5(c), and a conviction will lead to imprisonment with added prison enhancement. A violent crime consists of the actions that a person carries out, intending to cause harm and inflict bodily injury to another person. The actions taken determine the degree of the felony charge.

Murder, California PC 187

When a crime results in the unlawful death of another person, it is referred to as murder, and sometimes the term homicide is used interchangeably. You face murder charges when you commit the crime intentionally. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to:

  • Cause the victim serious bodily injury or harm.
  • Participate in an activity that would likely result in serious bodily injury or death.

There are three types of crimes in California that make up the homicide category. These crimes include first-degree murder, which carries the harshest punishment, second-degree murder, and manslaughter.

1.       First Degree Murder

First-degree murder is a homicide that the perpetrator carries out willfully, and it is premeditated. Following acts constitute first-degree murder under California PC 189:

  • Poisoning the victim.
  • Torturing the victim to death.
  • Using explosives to kill the victim.
  • Using weapons of mass destruction.
  • Discharging a gun from a vehicle with the intention of killing.

You should note that if a person’s death occurs while you are committing other crimes, you are also charged with first-degree murder, even if your intention was not to kill that person. Some of these crimes that could lead to a first-degree murder charge include:

  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Carjacking
  • Mayhem
  • Burglary
  • Robbery

Some instances where a court can try first-degree murder as capital murder under California PC 190.2 include:

  • When you kill another person to gain financially.
  • When you Kill several people.
  • When you Kill someone one to receive a street gang award as described under PC 186.22.
  • When you kill a person due to their religion, race, political affiliation, nationality, color, or origins

Penalties for First-Degree Murder

Under California PC 187, first-degree murder carries a conviction of 25 years in prison, a life sentence without parole, or death. For capital murder, a sentence will have a death penalty or life imprisonment without parole.

2.       Second Degree Murder

This is a murder that does not meet first-degree elements but is still accomplished through malice or intent. Some of the instances that can make you face second-degree murder include:

  • Self-defense.
  • If the evidence brought to court was illegally acquired.
  • If the accused was not mentally fit when they committed the crime.
  • If you were forced to confess.
  • If yours is a case of mistaken identity.

Penalties for Second-Degree Murder

A second-degree murder conviction carries a 15 years sentence, but the court can increase this sentence  if the prosecution proves that:

  1. You had received a murder conviction sentence that you have served, and then your current conviction will be a life sentence without the parole option.
  2. If you used a gun in a moving motor vehicle to cause harm, your sentence would range from 20 years to life imprisonment.
  3. If you killed a peace officer, then your sentence will be 25 years up to life imprisonment.

When you use a gun to commit a crime, your offense will carry an additional 10 to 25 years of jail time. You will also pay the victim’s family restitution fees and a fine not exceeding $10,000 for the offense. Apart from these penalties, once convicted, you will have a strike against your record and lose your right to own a firearm.

Manslaughter, California PC 192

Manslaughter is the act of killing someone unlawfully without malice and is subdivided into three categories (voluntary, vehicular, and involuntary manslaughter). Voluntary manslaughter is the only type of manslaughter classified as a violent crime under California PC667.5(c).

Voluntary Manslaughter, California PC 192(a)

Involuntary manslaughter happens due to an intense emotional state. The accused did not have the intention to kill the victim but did so out of intense emotions. The fact that you intended to hurt the victim but not kill the victim makes the crimeless of premeditated murder. Voluntary manslaughter is a crime between involuntary manslaughter and murder, and you will need to have a good defense team on your corner if you are facing this crime.

Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter

A voluntary manslaughter conviction  sees you serving 3 to 11 years in state prison. You should note that both vehicular and involuntary manslaughter are not listed under PC 667.5 as violent crimes.

Rape, California PC 261

California PC 261 defines rape as the act of having sexual intercourse with another person without their consent, and this description includes even your spouse. Suppose you have sexual intercourse while your victim is unconscious, mentally impaired, or suffering from a disability that makes them unable to consent. You are liable to face rape charges freely.

You will face a rape charge when you threaten, use fraud, or rob your victim of their ability to consent to have any sexual intercourse with you. Several instances could lead to rape charges, and they include:

  • When a doctor prescribes sex as a treatment for a specific illness.
  • If you have sexual intercourse with a passed out person.
  • When a police officer asks for sexual favors, I order to drop some charges against an offender.

Penalties for Rape

A rape conviction carries a jail term that depends on the severity of the case and the payment of a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000. The following circumstances determine the period you are going to spend in jail.

If your victim is an adult who is not your spouse, you will face an imprisonment period that ranges from three up to eight years. If you face rape charges for raping your spouse and are convicted, you will be incarcerated for a period ranging from three up to eight years under California PC264(a).

When the victim is aged below 14 years, the sentence will be between nine and thirteen years. If the victim is aged between 14 and 18 years, then the penalty will range from seven up to 11 years. When you forcibly rape a person or help rape a person aged below 14 years, your punishment can start from 10 up to 14 years, and if the victim is aged between 14 and 18 years, then the sentence will be from seven up to 11 years.

Where the victim is an adult, and you forcibly rape them or have help from other people, you will face a sentence that ranges from five up to nine years in jail. If the victim receives bodily injury, you will then face additional jail time that ranges from three up to five years.

Sodomy, California PC 286(c)

Sodomy is a sexual offense and is a violent crime under California PC 667.5. This sexual offense occurs when your penis comes into contact with the victim’s anus. It doesn’t matter whether the penetration was slight. Under Penal Code 286, you will face sodomy charges if:

  • You commit sodomy.
  • Your victim is a minor aged below 14 years.
  • The age difference between you and the victim is greater than ten years.
  • You are working with another person voluntarily to commit the crime.
  • You commit sodomy using the victim’s age, violence, force, threats, intimidation to the victim or another person.

Penalties for Sodomy

Penalties for sodomy charges are imprisonment, and the duration depends on the nature of the crime and the victim’s age. The victim is aged below 18 years; the conviction will lead to a one-year imprisonment period. If the offender is above 21 years and the victim below the age of 16, the act will be tried as a felony and will receive an imprisonment period ranging from 16 months to three years.

If the victim is a minor who is below 14 years, and the offender is older by more than ten years, he will face imprisonment that ranges from three up to eight years. When the crime is against a minor aged below 14 years where the offender applies force, violence, a threat to the victim, or someone else to commit the offense, then the penalty for this crime will be imprisonment for nine up to 13 years in prison.

Arson, California PC 451

Arson is the unlawful or malicious action of setting fire on your property or someone else’s property. The prosecution will prove that you set the property on fire and the property received damage due to the fire, there were casualties in the fire, and your intention when you set the fire up.

Penalties for Arson

Penalties for arson vary, and you may receive imprisonment, fines, or both. When you receive a malicious arson conviction, the court will sentence you:

  • Imprisonment of 16 months up to three years when the arson was against personal property.
  • If the arson were against a structure or forested land, the imprisonment would range from two up to six years.
  • Arson on an inhabited structure or property will lead to imprisonment of three up to eight years.
  • When the arson causes significant bodily injury, imprisonment will range from five up to nine years.
  • Pay fine not exceeding $10,000.
  • Pay an additional $50 000, or twice the amount you expected to obtain if the financial goal was the root cause of the fire.
  • Receive a strike against your record.

You should note that the reckless burning of property is a misdemeanor, and its penalty is not as harsh as that of malicious arson. Convictions for these charges will lead to a six month jail time or a payment of a fine that does not exceed $1,000

Robbery (California PC 211)

California Penal Code defines robbery as a crime that involves taking someone else's property without their consent and applying force and violence. The prosecution has the duty of proving beyond reasonable doubt the following facts before a robbery charge can hold in court:

  • You took another person’s property in their presence.
  • You took property that did not belong to you.
  • You took property that owned another person.
  • You applied force and threats while taking the property away from the owner.
  • You intimidated the property owner to reduce their resistance. In that case, take away their property.

Penalties for Robbery

California Penal Code puts a robbery offense into two classes, and your penalties will be dependent on the category that your charge lies in.

First-Degree Robbery

You will face first-degree robbery charges if you commit the following:

  • If your victim is a taxi driver or a passenger in a bus, subway, or other means of hired transportation.
  • If your victim is at the ATM, or you rob them as soon as they exit the ATM.
  • When you rob a trailer, boat, or house which is inhabited.

With the first-degree robbery, the penalties will include:

  • Formal probation.
  • Payment of a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000.
  • Imprisonment in state prison for a period of three to six years.
  • If you rob an inhabited house with the help of others, you will face jail time in state prison that may go up to nine years.

Second-Degree robbery

This is a robbery that does not meet the criteria for first-degree robbery, and it is a felony offense. The offense for this offense is formal probation, payment of a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000, face incarceration in state prison for a period that ranges from two to five years, or both.

You should note that sometimes a court can issue a sentence that includes other types of punishment, including community service, restitution, and probation. For a conviction and sentence to be released, the following fact will play an important role:

  • Your age.
  • Your prior criminal record.
  • If the victim obtained any injury during the robbery and, if so, the nature of the damage.
  • The value of property loss due to the robbery.
  • The level of intimidation you used while robbing your victim.

Extortion, California PC 518

Extortion is a crime that occurs when you obtain money, services, or property unlawfully from someone else by use of threats, force, and intimidation. For this charge to hold in court, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You used threats and force to make another person give you their property, services, or money.
  • You threatened a public officer for them to carry out their duties.
  • You are a public officer, and you used your position to coerce another person to give you their property, money, or services.

Penalties for Extortion

An extortion conviction will lead to an imprisonment period that ranges from two up to four years, payment of fines that doesn’t exceed $10,000, or both.

Kidnapping, California PC 207

The California penal code defines kidnapping as the violent action of taking someone from one place to another without their willful consent. For a kidnapping charge to hold in court, the prosecution must prove the following facts beyond reasonable doubts:

  • You took, held, and detained someone by use of force or by installing fear.
  • Using fear, you moved or made that person a substantial distance from one point to another.
  • The victim did not give their consent willfully to the move.

Under California PC, moving a person a substantial distance means that you carried that person, even if the distance was slight or trivial. For the court to determine the considerable distance that the victim moves, they will consider the following instances:

  • The actual distance that the victim was moved.
  • If the movement gave the victim a lesser chance to escape and the offender a greater opportunity to instill fear and commit more crimes. If the activity increased both physical and psychological torture to the victim.
  • If the move was incidental to commit another crime.

Penalties for Kidnapping

  • A kidnapping conviction will lead to an incarceration period that ranges from three up to eight years in prison.
  • Payment of fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000.

There are some instances where the court can try the kidnapping charge as an aggravated kidnapping. This will occur where the application of fear, force, and intimidation occurs, and the victim is a minor under the age of 14 years. You plan to ask for a ransom against the victim. The victim obtains substantial bodily injury or when the kidnapping took place during a carjacking. With an aggravated kidnapping, the sentence will range from five up to 11 years in prison.

Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me

When facing a violent criminal charge, you face harsh punishment that could affect your life. A violent crime conviction remains in your criminal record, and sometimes you may receive a strike on your record. Some circumstances could lead to or make you commit some of these  violent crimes. Other times, you are a victim of false accusations, mistaken identity, or malicious intent. Finding an experienced attorney is crucial. Your attorney will build a strong defense for a lesser sentence or having the charges dropped. At Koenig Law Office, we have a team of compentent attorneys who will defend you. Our team has the experience to evaluate your case, bring in expert witnesses and offer you the best defense representation. Contact us at Koenig Law Office today at 661-793-7222 to book a free consultation.