In violent crimes or violent felonies, victims face harm or the threat of harm through violence. Offenders of violent crimes receive harsher penalties that include sentence enhancement and a strike on their record. The penalties are in place as punishment for offenders and as a deterrent to the rest of society. Penal Code 667.5 details the crimes considered violent in California. This article defines violent crimes and details the penalties you are likely to face.
Should you or a loved one face criminal charges for a violent crime, get in touch with an attorney immediately. Your odds of beating the charges increase with legal help, and the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney team is ready to help.
Violent Crimes in California
Penal code 667.5 outlines all violent crimes. Several crimes are violent. However, not all crimes are strike-able offenses under the Three Strike Law, and not all are penalized by sentence enhancements. The following are the crimes that are both strike-able offenses and do attract sentence enhancements.
Murder - Penal Code 187
Most people use murder and homicide interchangeably. However, the two have different meanings. Homicide is a category of crimes and not a crime. The category consists of:
- First and second-degree murders
- Manslaughter, which could be either voluntary, involuntary, or vehicular
On the other hand, murder is a crime classified as a homicide.
Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another human being or fetus with malice aforethought. Penal Code 187’s definition identifies malice as a key element. While in everyday conversation, malice is ill-will, in law, malice refers to the accused’s intention. Malice is key because for the prosecution to prove their case, they must demonstrate that your intentions were aimed at:
- Killing another
- Causing significant bodily injury to another, or
- Engaging in an activity whose outcome could have been the death or serious bodily harm to another.
Aforethought shows that the intentions were premeditated.
First-degree murder is the premeditated and willful killing of another. The definition also includes felony murders, which are deaths caused to others while committing felonies like rape, carjacking, burglary, arson, robbery, kidnapping, mayhem, or any other serious crime.
From the above definition, murder is committed in the following ways.
- Willful, premeditated, and deliberate killing of another
- By lying in wait
- Through torture
- By using poison
- The use of a destructive device, a weapon of mass destruction, armor-penetrating ammunition, or an explosive
- Killing another while committing a felony — You will face first-degree murder charges even if you had no intention of killing your victim.
First-degree murder is punishable with a 25 year-to-lie prison sentence. However, the sentence will change to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if the murder was capital or it involved exceptional circumstances that will be addressed in the murder trial.
Second-degree murder is the killing of another with malice aforethought but without premeditation. These charges are introduced in situations where the accussed allegeldley killed another but in circumstances different from those in first-degree murder cases. They include:
- Discharging a gun at another with no intention of killing them, but the person dies anyway.
- A driver with multiple DUIs, driving drunk and causes an accident that results in the death of another.
- Shooting in a crowded environment with no intention to kill but your actions result in the death of another.
- Viciously sucker-punching a smaller, inebriated individual, thus causing them to suffer a fatal head injury.
- Committing a second-degree felony murder
Conviction of a second-degree murder charge will result in a five-year-to-life prison sentence.
Voluntary Manslaughter - PC 192a
While manslaughter encompasses voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular manslaughter, Penal code 667.5 only considers voluntary manslaughter a violent crime.
Under Penal Code 192a, voluntary manslaughter occurs when another is killed in the heat of passion, a sudden quarrel, or based on the honest but unreasonable belief of the need to defend yourself (the imperfect self-defense crime).
To simplify voluntary manslaughter further, the accused intended to cause the victim harm but did not intend to kill them. On this basis, the crime differs from involuntary manslaughter because, under involuntary manslaughter, the accused neither intended to harm or kill the victim. Further, the accused had not premeditated or willfully killed another. Therefore, manslaughter charges will be preferred as opposed to murder charges.
Voluntary manslaughter charges are, in most cases, not original cases but lesser charges for defendants who admit to killing their victims. Prosecutors present the charges during plea bargain deliberations as an exchange to have the murder charges dropped. In other cases, based on the evidence presented in court, the jury may find you guilty of voluntary manslaughter as opposed to murder.
Voluntary manslaughter convictions attract felony penalties. As such, if convicted, you will be looking at:
- A potential strike in your record, guided by California’s Three Strike Law
- A fine of no more than $10,000
- Probation terms that include attending anger-management sessions, or community service
- The loss of your right to own or possess a firearm as prescribed by Penal Code 29800
Mayhem - Penal Code 203
As defined by Penal Code 203, Mayhem is the malicious and unlawful depriving, disfiguring, disabling, or rendering a member of another’s body useless. Further, slitting their nose, lip, ears, tongue, or putting their eyes out amounts to mayhem.
Penal Code 205, on the other hand, defines aggravated mayhem. Any intentional action aimed at dismembering another’s member of their body or causing any of the grievous body injuries listed above amounts to aggravated mayhem.
A mayhem conviction under Penal Code 203 will land in your prison, where you will serve a two, four, or eight-year sentence. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be added to your prison sentence. An aggravated mayhem conviction, on the other hand, attracts life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
Rape - Penal Code 261
Rape features in Penal Code 667.5 because of the violent nature of the crime. Penal Code 261 offers the definition of rape and the penalties an accused risk facing if convicted.
According to Penal Code 261, rape is engaging in non-consensual sexual intercourse with another through fraud, force, or the threat of force. It is worth pointing out a few elements that amount to rape and may be lost in the definition.
- Non-consensual sex with your spouse or intimate partner is considered rape.
- You stand accused of the crime even if you had sexual intercourse with the victim but did not intend to engage in non-consensual sex.
Penal Code 261 lists instances that amount to rape. The list includes instances of non-consensual sex with:
- an unconscious victim
- an individual suffering from a mental disorder
- an individual impaired to an extent they are incapable of giving consent.
In the above scenarios, it is clear that the victims cannot give consent to a sexual engagement.
Rape is punishable by formal probation or a prison sentence depending on the circumstances of your case. Below is an assessment of some of the circumstances and the prison terms they attract, as detailed in Penal Code 264.
- In instances where the alleged victim is an adult but not your spouse, you risk facing three, six, or eight years in prison.
- If the victim is no more than 14 years of age, your prison sentence could be either 9,11, or 13 years. Depending on the circumstances in your case, prosecutors may introduce additional charges. You could face Penal Code 288.7 violation charges (sex with a child under ten years) and/or charges under Penal Code 269, aggravated sexual assault of a child.
- If the victim is between 14 and 18 years, your prison sentence could be 7,9, or 11 years.
- If your spouse is the victim in the case, you will be looking at 3, 6, or 8 years behind bars.
- If the victim was raped through force and others helped you in the crime, you risk spending 5, 7, or 9 years behind bars. If the victim was under 14 years, a prison sentence of 10, 12, or 14 years will be issued. If the victim was between 14 and 18 years, you could face 7, 9, or 11 years behind bars.
- If the victim suffered significant bodily injury, you will be looking at five years to be added to your sentence.
It should be noted, sex with a minor (an individual younger than 18 years) is statutory rape regardless of whether the sex was consensual or not.
Sodomy - Penal Code 286
Sodomy is non-consensual contact between the accused’s penis and the victim’s anus. Do note; you will be chared with sodomy for any penetration regardless of how slight it is.
According to Penal Code 2286’s definition, the following instances attract sodomy charges and a subsequent conviction:
- Non-consensual sexual contact with the victim
- Sexual contact with a minor under the age of 14, regardless of their consent.
- If there is a ten year age difference between you and the victim
- If you willfully acted aided by others in the act of sodomy
- If you committed sodomy through force, menace, violence, coercion, or threats to inflict bodily injury to them or their loved ones — The threats considered are both before the act of sodomy and those issued after the act to silence the victim from speaking out.
- If it is proven that there was a reasonable possibility you would execute the threats issued.
Sodomy convictions are punished in various ways depending on the circumstances in your case. It is worth noting that some sodomy offenses are wobblers, and prosecutors decide on whether to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges based on the circumstances of your case and your criminal record. A conviction, therefore, will result in misdemeanor or felony penalties.
Penal Code 286(b)(1), 286(e), and 286(h) violations are wobblers. Engaging in sodomy with a minor is a violation of Penal Code 286(b)(1), while a Penal Code 286(e) violation is engaging in sodomy with a fellow inmate. If you engage in sodomy with a fellow patient in a psychiatric hospital, you will have violated Penal Code 286(h).
A conviction of misdemeanor charges for Penal Code 286(b)(1), 286(e), and 286(h) violations attract summary probation, a maximum fine of $1,000, and/or one year behind bars. Felony convictions attract formal probation, a maximum fine of $10,000, and/or a 16 month, 2 or 3-year prison sentence.
All other Penal Code 286 violations, except for Penal Code 286(b)(2) and 286(d), are felonies and all attract a 3, 6, or 8-year prison sentence and other felony penalties detailed above. Penalties imposed on Penal Code 286(b)(2) and 286(d) felony convicts are as detailed below.
A Penal Code 286(b)(2) conviction attracts a 16-month, 2, or 3-year prison sentence in addition to the felony penalties detailed before. A Penal Code 286(b)(2) offense is committed when an accused of 21 years engages in sodomy with a minor under 16 years.
Engaging in sodomy through fear or force with the help of another individual is a Penal Code 286(d) violation. A conviction will land you in prison, where you will serve 5, 7, or 9 years. These penalties are additional to the felony penalties listed above.
Oral Copulation - Penal Code 287
Oral copulation is the non-consensual contact made by an accused’s mouth with the victim’s genitals or anus. Oral copulation charges are pursued through three avenues:
- If the victim was too inebriated to give his/he consent
- Oral copulation was done on an unconscious individual
- The victim of oral copulation was an individual legally unable to give their consent owing to their mental disorder or physical or developmental disability
- The act was done through violence, duress, fear, force, menace, or a threat to inflict bodily harm on the victim or their loved ones immediately or as retaliation should they speak out
Oral copulation is a felony under Penal Code 287, and thus, you will face felony penalties if convicted for the crime. The penalties differ based on the circumstances of your case.
- In cases where the victim of the oral copulation is disabled, a fine of no more than $10,000 will be imposed with a prison sentence of 3, 6, or 8 years.
- Where the victim is a minor under 18 years, but over 14 years, the prison sentence increases to 6, 8, or 10 years and 8,10, or 12 years if the minor is under 14 years.
- The third scenario under Penal Code 287 is when oral copulation was done through force or fear invoked when other individuals participated in the crime, legally referred to as acting in concert. You will be guilty of the crime even if you aided and abetted another in committing the crime. If convicted, a:
- 5, 7, or 9 year prison term will be imposed if the victim is an adult
- 8, 10, or 12 years if the victim is a minor is 14 years of age or above
- 10, 12, or 14 years of the victim is a minor less than 14 years of age
- Register as a sex offender, which is a lifelong requirement
Lewd and Lascivious Acts with a Minor Child - Penal Code 288
Child molestation is defined under Penal Code 288 as lewd and lascivious acts with a minor child. This law criminalizes touching minors under 14 years for sexual purposes. Lewd acts under the law occur in two ways: the accused touches the child with sexual intentions or the accused causes the child to touch him/herself or another for sexual reasons. Both instances attract hefty penalties if convicted.
It is worth noting that an accused could be charged for a Penal Code 288 violation even if:
- The touch was over the minor's clothes
- He/she did not touch a sexual organ
- The child did the touching at the defendant’s behest.
Several factors are considered to determine the penalties proportionate to the crime. The factors include the child’s age, the age difference of the defendant to the minor, and whether the crime was committed through threats, violence, fear, force, or duress.
After assessing the facts of the case upon conviction, the following will be the penalties issued.
- 3,6, or 8-year prison terms if the child was under 14 years, but no force, fear, duress, or threats was used.
- Further, a fine of no more than $10,000 will be imposed.
- 5, 8, or 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine if the child below 14 years was forced
- Life imprisonment if bodily harm was inflicted on a child below 14 years
- 1, 2, or 3 years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000 if the child was between 14 and 15 years of age.
- A habitual sex offender will receive a 25-to-life prison sentence
Additionally, all persons convicted of Penal Code 288 will be required to register as sex offenders for life over as an additional penalty.
Robbery - Penal Code 211
Robbery is the taking of another’s property in their possession, against their will, through fear or force. Robbery is a felony prosecuted under two forms: First and second-degree robbery.
First-degree robbery is the taking of another’s property forcefully from any person in an inhabited structure. Further, taking property forcefully from drivers or passengers in buses, taxis, subways, cable cars, or a person who has just used an ATM or is in the ATM’s vicinity is a first-degree robbery. A conviction will result in a 3 to a 9-year prison sentence.
All other robbery instances that do not meet the first-degree threshold are second-degree robberies. They are penalized by 2, 3, or 5 years in prison.
Arson - Penal Code 451
Any person who willfully and maliciously sets, aids, or causes the burning of property, a structure, or forest land is deemed to violate Penal Code 451. You would receive:
- 16 months, 2, or 3 years if you committed arson on personal property
- 2, 4, or 6 years for a structure or forest land
- 3, 5, or 8 years if you set fire or caused the burning of an inhabited property.
In instances where arson caused bodily injury to another, the penalties increase. If convicted, you will be looking at a 5,7, or 9-year prison term.
Attempted Murder - Penal Code 664/187(a)
For you to be convicted of attempted murder, prosecutors must prove that you intended to kill another and you took a direct step towards executing your intentions. However, you were not successful. The attempt is the guiding principle. Therefore, penalties are imposed on the specific crimes the accused attempted to commit. They include first-degree and second-degree murder as well as voluntary manslaughter.
- First-degree attempted murders are premeditated, willful, and deliberate attempts to kill another. If convicted, you could face life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum 7-year sentence. On the other hand, defendants must serve a minimum of 15 years if the victim was an on-duty police officer, firefighter, or any other protected person.
- Second-degree attempted murders include all attempts to kill another that were not deliberate or premeditated. Second-degree attempted murder convictions carry a 5,7, or 9-year prison sentence.
- Both first and second-degree attempted murder penalties can include victim restitution, loss of gun rights, and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Carjacking - Penal Code 215
Carjacking is the forceful taking of another's vehicle. Of concern for your conviction is whether you used force or fear while taking the vehicle, if you used a gun or threatened to use it on your victims, if you kidnapped another in the process, or you committed the crime in furtherance of gang-related activities. All these are material in determining your penalties.
Convicted offenders could face three to nine years in prison.
Kidnapping - Penal Code 207
Kidnapping is moving another through a substantial distance without their consent through fear or force. Simple kidnapping offenders spend eight years behind bars as the penalty for their offenses. However, if the kidnapping led to the injury or death of the victim, or the victim was a child under 14 years, or ransom was demanded, or the kidnapping was a result of a carjacking incident, the crime is considered as aggravated kidnapping.
If convicted of aggravated kidnapping, you risk 5, 8, or 11 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. You could also face life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
California Three Strikes Law
Understanding how California Three Strikes Law operates will help you understand how the law is applied in the violent crimes listed above.
The Three Strike Law is detailed under Penal Code 667. The law provides a sentencing scheme that punishes those convicted of three crimes or serious felonies through a strike system. Every conviction of a violent crime is a strike in your record, which means additional penalties. Third-strike offenders face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
A third strike is issued on an offender’s criminal record when the individual has two prior convictions for violent or serious offenses and if they are currently charged with a violent or serious felony. A conviction of their current charge will be the third strike.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Violent crimes are frowned upon by society. That is why the penalties imposed are hefty. With an attorney on your side, your odds of fighting the charges increase tremendously. That is why it is in your best interest to hire one. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we assist those facing violent crime charges. Our efforts are tailored to ensure the best possible outcome. Give us a call today at 619-877-6894 for a case assessment.