Statistics show that approximately 1.2 million cases of violent crimes are reported in the country every year, with more than 60% of those being aggravated assault cases. Most violent crimes in the country involve the use of firearms. Violence is taken very seriously across the states and in California; severe penalties await any person found guilty of any violence. For people who are facing violent criminal charges, it is crucial to look for immediate legal representation to help fight the possible punishments of such crimes. Darwish Law is here to help you understand violent crimes better and what you can do in case you are arrested for committing any of these types of crimes.
Legal Definition of Violent Crimes
Violent crimes are those in which the offender uses force or threatens to use power upon the victim. They include crimes in which violence is the main objective, such as rape and murder, and also crimes in which violence is the means to an end. Violent crimes, according to statistics from the country’s Bureau of Justice, include battery, assault, sexual assault, robbery, rape as well as murder among others. Any crime that is associated with the use of power is also classified under the crime of violence. This may include reckless driving, kidnapping, and vehicular manslaughter.
From those definitions, it is clear that violence can be used to refer to any behavior by a person against another person or property that intentionally attempts, inflicts, or threatens physical harm. The seriousness of the injuries sustained by the victim or whether or not deadly weapons such as guns were used to commit the crime will be used to determine the severity of the crime and penalties. Again, such crimes are more severely punished if the offender has a similar criminal record.
Crimes of violence are, in most cases associated with hatred or in extreme cases, incredible disregard for the rights and worth of another person. Of all types of violent crimes in any state, homicides are usually the most serious as they result in the death of another person.
Violent Crimes Under California Law
The state of California, under its Penal Code, defines all criminal acts with an aspect of violence in it as felony offenses. This means that being charged with a violent crime in the state could land you in jail or prison for so many years. It is crucial, therefore, to understand what crimes are considered extreme in the state and how such crimes can affect your life.
The state also defines a felony as any action that a person commits with an express intention to harm another person resulting in a moderate to severe injury to the other person. The degree of any offense is determined by the action taken by the offender and the amount of harm that the victim has suffered. If a person assaults and harms a child, for instance, that person can face felony charges or a charge of aggravated assault. Voluntary manslaughter and murder cases are crimes of violence that lead to felony charges. Sexual crimes such as rape and sexual assault are crimes that affect victims differently, though they are also treated as felonies in the state.
Types of Violent Crimes in California
Assault in California is defined as threatening or committing a physical action that leaves the other person in terror of looming harm or offensive contact. With assault, physical contact does not have to be made as long as there was a threat with the intent of causing fear to another person. The most severe form of assault is aggravated assault, in which some factors are considered, such as assault of a particular person such as a minor or use of a deadly weapon. The offender might have displayed a deadly weapon to scare their victims off or threaten to use a deadly weapon. Since the potential victim was threatened with bodily injury, assault cases are classified under crimes of violence, even in cases where the offender established no actual physical contact.
California assault law is provided under Penal Code 240. For a person to be convicted of assault, the following elements must be present:
- There must be proof that the offender acted in a manner likely to result from using force against another person
- That the defendant’s actions were done willfully
- That the defendant was well aware that their deeds would cause the other person to believe that the defendant would use force on them
- That the defendant's behavior showed that they could use power against the other person
Robbery is also classified as a crime of violence in California. The crime entails taking another person's personal property from them by use of force. There are forms of theft that are usually accomplished without the use of force, but in cases of robbery, there must be proof of the use of force for the defendant to be convicted. Robbery is defined as knowingly frightening another person with an injury or even death to take something from them by force.
Robbery in the state is provided under California Penal Code 211 and is always a felony crime. As long as there is proof that you took something that was not yours, against the owner’s will and in their presence and you used force or fear to prevent the owner from resisting, you could be sentenced to the crime of robbery, which carries very stiff penalties.
The crime of rape is committed when one person commits an undesirable act of sex upon another. There is statutory rape, whereby there is a distinct age difference between the defendant and their victim, which doesn't allow the victim to consent to the act. There is also forcible rape, whereby the victim is held against their will, sometimes at gunpoint or through the use of physical force.
Any sexual act that happens without the consent of either one of the participants is criminalized in the state. The crime of rape falls under sexual assault. If a person has had sexual intercourse with another, a crime can be proved if the following is true:
- There was the use of physical force, coercion, threats or intimidation
- The victim allowed it to happen out of fear of being physically harmed or out of fear that another person could be physically injured
- The victim could not have consented to the act because they were minors, physically disabled, had developmental delays or were intoxicated
- The victim was asleep, unconscious or was unaware that the sexual activity was happening
- The defendant defrauded the victim into having sex with them, maybe through misrepresentation
The crime of rape takes all manner of forms such as rape of minors, non-spousal rape, spousal rape, and statutory rape, among others.
Provided under Penal Code 187, murder can be defined as the unlawful and intentional killing of another person or fetus with malicious aforethought. The defendant, in this case, will have a total disregard of human life to commit this crime, with greater hope that their action will result in death. The crime of murder can either be classified as first-degree or second-degree.
First-degree murder is said to happen if the defendant used a destructive device, an armor-piercing, poison, and a weapon of mass destruction, torture or lying in wait to commit the crime. There must be proof that the defendant acted in a deliberate, intentional or willful manner. Any murder case that is not included under the first-degree murder scenario will automatically fall under the second-degree scenario.
Elements of murder will include proof that a person committed an act that resulted in the death of another or a fetus, that the action was deliberate and that the person acted without any justification.
Penalties for Violent Crimes
Crimes of violence are punished by the most severe penalties in the state of California, which could include the death penalty or life imprisonment. Generally, hefty fines, completion of education and counseling sessions, community service, and probation are some of the common penalties that come with time behind bars for such crimes.
In cases of assault, penalties could get steeper if the victim was a peace officer. Other aggravating factors will also be considered as they have an impact in heightening the penalties.
In the case of first-degree robbery, the defendant can be sentenced for up to 6 years in state prison and a fine that can go up to $10,000. The sentence can be heightened if the crime resulted in serious bodily injury, if a gun was used to commit the robbery and if you have a robbery conviction in your criminal record.
Rape in the state is punished with a prison term of up to 8 years in state prison. The penalties will get worse if the victim was a minor below 14 years of age or if the defendant collaborated with another person to rape the victim.
Crimes of murder call for a life sentence without the possibility of parole, and this means that you may never enjoy an early release no matter how you behave in prison. This is especially in cases of hate murder, based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or nationality. Capital murder is also punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of getting parole. Since capital murder is considered as the most severe crime in California, you could get the death penalty. A second-degree murder may get you a 15-year term in state prison but, depending on other circumstances, you could also get a life sentence.
Possible Defenses in Cases of Violent Crimes
Considering the seriousness of violent crimes in the state, seeking the help of a smart criminal defense attorney could be the only way to get a lighter sentence or even have your charges dropped. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, your attorney could employ several strategies to defend you against the serious charges you may be facing. Some of the strategies that could be used include:
Consent in a case of rape
If your attorney can prove that your alleged victim consented to your sexual advances and that the act did not violate their will, you may be acquitted of the rape charges. However, this may not work if the victim was a minor, physically challenged, or mentally unstable.
So many people have been falsely identified by victims of violent crimes when in the real sense; they did not commit the alleged crimes. Your attorney should be able to prove that you are being mistaken for the actual perpetrator to get your charges dropped
No force was used
The use of force is a vital element in crimes of violence. If there is proof that you did not use any force, victimization, or threat, you may not be guilty of violence.
This could be used in a case of assault to justify your actions against your victim. If you had strong reasons to believe that you were in danger or another person was in danger, you could have acted the way you did to protect yourself or the other person.
The right legal support is necessary for anyone that is facing a severe charge of violence. With the right attorney by your side, you should be able to convince the court that you did not commit nor had any intention of causing harm to the victim. If you or your loved one is facing a violent criminal charge, talk to us at 714-887-4810. At Darwish Law, we will try our best to fight for a lighter sentence or have your charges dismissed altogether.