According to the Nation Institute of Justice, when you use force or threaten to apply power during the commission of a robbery, murder, rape, sexual assault, and assault, the offenses are deemed violent crimes. A conviction for these offenses can alter your life entirely, which is why you need an experienced attorney by your side to contest the charges.
At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we believe that you must understand the definition of violent crimes and their permissible consequences if you face charges for one of these crimes. Therefore, in this article, we have given an overview of violent crimes in Pasadena and possible defenses to help you understand what to expect.
The Legal Definition of Violent Crimes
Under California law, an offense that involves causing physical harm or threats to inflict bodily injury is called a violent crime. Most violent crimes in California are felonies, although some misdemeanors may still be classified as violent if the violation of a victim is involved. Despite most violent offenses being felonies, most of them are tied to the Three Strikes Law, which adds a strike on your criminal record when you are sentenced for a violent felony. Discussed below are overviews of violent crimes you may be charged with.
Murder or Homicide
Under California PEN 187, there are three forms of murder. These are:
1. 1st Degree Murder
According to California PC 189, you will be imprisoned for murder if in the 1st degree if you committed the offense under the following circumstances:
- Your actions were premeditated
- You made use of explosives devices or weapons of mass destruction
- You ambushed or tortured the victim
- You killed the victim willingly
Under SB 1437, you will be sentenced for felony homicide if you were successful in the commission of the crime, tried, or took part in a felony, assisted, or abetted 1st-degree murder with intent to end the life of your victim. Upon conviction, you will face the ensuing penalties:
- Twenty-five years to incarceration for life
- Life incarceration without the possibility of parole in a state prison
- Capital punishment
2. 2nd Degree Murder
If you commit a felony or a fundamentally dangerous act that results in the loss of life of another individual, you will face murder in second-degree charges. An excellent example of this offense is vehicular manslaughter. The lowest incarceration term for 2nd-degree murder is fifteen years. Additionally, you may face 25 years in prison to life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.
3. Involuntary Manslaughter
Under California PC 192(b), involuntary manslaughter is when you cause death unintentionally but due to recklessness or negligence. The circumstances that must be present for you to face PEN 192(b) violation charges are:
- You ended another person’s life during the commission of an offense that isn’t a dangerous felony.
- During lawful conduct with the possibility of ending life
If the court finds you guilty of the offense, you risk a jail term of 24, 36, or 48 months. The court could also impose a court fine of ten thousand dollars.
Note that the crime of homicide occurs when you end someone else’s life through deliberate acts, which could be accidental or negligent. You don’t need to have malicious intent to cause harm for you to face these charges.
Murder laws in California have changed a lot in the recent past, and it’s crucial to know about these changes if you are faced with charges for this violent offense. According to SB 1437, you evoke a felony homicide rule if:
- You are liable for ending the life of someone else during the commission of a felony or tried felony crime.
- You aided and supported, or in a significant way engaged in a murder
- You ended the life of a peace officer trying to stop a robbery you were committing
Felony murder is punishable by twenty-five years in prison, a life sentence without parole, or capital punishment. However, not everyone is eligible for the death penalty under PEN 190.3. For you to qualify for the ruling, the jury will consider the following aspects:
- Nature and facts surrounding the capital offense
- Other violent offenses
- Prior felony convictions
On the other hand, the jury considers alleviating factors that reduce the severity of the offense. For example, if you are a minor or mentally unfit, the court will not punish your homicide the same way it punishes adults with sound minds for the same crime. Other mitigating factors include:
- Someone pressured you into committing the homicide
- You played a slight part in the commission of the offense
Note that you need an experienced lawyer to present these mitigating factors to reduce homicide penalties. Further, the lawyer can contest the death penalty via executive leniency, automatic state appeal, or a request to overrule the ruling.
Rape and Sexual Assault
Any offense referred to as sexual assault may be charged through California’s sexual battery or assault statutes. Under these laws, it is illegal to offensively touch someone else’s intimate parts like sexual organs, breasts of a female, buttocks, or anus. If the unsolicited sexual results in nonconsensual sexual intercourse, the offense becomes rape.
The various forms of sexual assault are:
Simple Sexual Assault
According to Penal Code 243.4 of the Criminal Code, any attack that is sexual that involves the use of force or threats to compel the victim is simple sexual assault. Therefore, if you use force or pressure to coerce another person into kissing, touching, or sexual intercourse, you violate PC 243.4. It’s advisable to retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer in these cases because bodily harm is not a requirement to demonstrate the crime occurred. Simple allegations of forcing someone to kiss or engage in sexual intercourse alone are enough to convict you.
If the offense is prosecuted as a criminal offense, it attracts a severe sentence of no more than ten years of prison incarceration.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
Aggravated sexual assault is outlined as any sexual offense that causes the victim to suffer critical harm, disfigurement, or risk of death. If the victim is a child, the offense is charged under PC 269. When convicted, the offense carries a maximum of a life sentence.
It’s worth noting that the victims’ sexual history is irrelevant in the prosecution of these cases. Therefore, even if the victim of your criminal activity was a commercial sex worker, they can still sue you even if you were their client. Besides, you cannot argue that the victim consented to the act if they are 18 years or younger. The law considers individuals like those minors, and therefore, they lack consent to actions like those, even when they arranged for it.
Sexual Assault With a Weapon
Any action that involves the use or threatening to use a weapon during the commission of sexual assault as sexual assault with a firearm. Therefore, even if you use a toy gun as a weapon when committing sexual assault, it qualifies as a violation of this section if you brandished the weapon to evoke fear.
As stated earlier, when sexual advances or assault intensifies to forced vaginal penetration, the offense becomes rape. Therefore, both rape and sexual assault are sex offenses and are classified based on the case’s circumstances.
If you are charged with the sex mentioned above crimes, the prosecutor must prove that:
- Your intentions at the time of committing the crime were to achieve sexual stimulation or fulfillment.
- The victim didn’t consent to your sexual advances
- You directly or using force, touched the victim’s intimate parts
- Your victim was not of sound mind or was disabled and, therefore, couldn’t consent or resist your sexual advances.
- You forced the victim to feel their intimate parts
If you are charged with misdemeanor sexual battery under PC 243.4, a conviction is punishable by no more than half a year in jail or court-imposed monetary fines of as much as two thousand dollars. Where the victim is your employee, the fine could increase to no more than $3,000.
When charged and tried as a felony, the offense carries at most 48 months in prison, and a court fine is not exceeding $10,000.
Some sex crimes require you to register as a sex offender in the public registry for people to learn about your conduct and guard themselves if need be. For example, if you have been convicted for misdemeanor sexual battery, you will be required to list as a level one offender for at least 120 months.
On the other end, tier two classification is for the sex offenders who are convicted of crimes like consensual sexual conduct with a juvenile or uncouth behavior with a child 14 years or younger. This classification carries severe consequences than tier one because your name and the sex crime you committed will appear in public registries for not less than 20 years.
The final but not least classification is the third tier which applies to individuals convicted for felony offenses like rape, sexual activity with a child, or sex trading of minors. If you register as a sex offender under this classification, your life will be changed forever because your name will appear on the registry for a lifetime.
Complying With California Sex Registration Statutes
In Pasadena and the whole of California, you must register as a sex offender five days after conviction or five days after leaving jail. Additionally, you must check in with the area police station in five days of the beginning of a new year or after turning a year older.
Similarly, a conviction for the offenses mentioned above requires you to adhere to the following conditions:
- You shouldn’t live close to schools or places where children play like parks
- You should report a name change in five days
- You should report to the police every thirty days if you are homeless
- Wear a GPS monitor if you are deemed a high-risk sex offender
- Report to the area police station inside five days of relocating to a fresh abode
- Register with the university or college police five days after admission to college or five days after graduation.
However, there have been multiple sex registration conditions after passing the proposed changes in SB 384. The new changes took effect as of 1st January 2021. As per the new laws, sex assault and battery offenders can be expunged from the public record, giving non-violent lawbreakers a reprieve.
Furthermore, the recent changes under Senate Bill 384 will invest more resources in protecting the public against violent sex criminals without channeling excess resources on low-level lawbreakers. However, the remedy won’t be available for individuals convicted of ensuing sex offenses when released from prison.
Robbery under PEN 211 is defined as felonious acquiring of somebody else’s property from their immediate presence or person, against their will, utilizing force or coercion. The offense is centered on the following elements:
- Taking property that isn’t yours
- Another person possessed the property
- You obtain the property from the owner’s immediate presence
- You acquired the property against the owner’s will
- You accomplished your actions through pressure or force
- When obtaining the property, you planned on denying the owner a significant portion of its value or benefits permanently or for a considerable duration.
The penalties for this offense depends on the following classifications:
1. 1st Degree Robbery
A 1st degree robbery is one that:
- The robbery victim is a motorist or occupant of a cab, bus, subway, cable car, streetcar, or other forms of transportation for hire.
- You robbed someone inside an inhabited building like a boat, warehouse, or trailer
- You robbed the victim while in the ATM or after they had transacted with the ATM and were close to it.
An inhabited structure, in this case, means an establishment where someone lives, regardless of whether they were present at the time of the robbery or not. Even if the victim was absent when you robbed the establishment, the structure will still be deemed as inhabited if the owner planned on returning.
1st-degree robbery is classified as a felony, and when found guilty, it is punishable by:
- Formal probation
- 36, 48, or 72 months prison incarceration
- A court-imposed monetary fine of no more than $10,000
However, if you commit the offense with the help of at least two other individuals, then the possible punishment increases to a maximum of nine years in prison.
2. 2nd Degree Robbery
Any stealing or robbery that doesn’t qualify as first-degree robbery is deemed second-degree robbery. When found guilty, the offense attracts the following consequences:
- Formal probation
- As much as 60 months of prison incarceration
- The court imposed monetary fines of no more than $10,000
3. Robbery With Several Victims
A robbery count is determined by the number of victims and not the number of items stolen. Therefore, if you apply force or threaten to apply power to obtain property illegally from one individual accompanied by two other individuals, you will face three robbery counts. However, if you stole multiple items from a single individual, you will encounter one count of robbery.
On top of the above penalties, you can face multiple sentence enhancements for the crime of robbery. For example, you would face enhancements under PEN 12022.7 if you caused someone else to suffer substantial physical injuries during the commission of a robbery. These can result in an additional and subsequent thirty-six to seventy-two months in prison.
On the other hand, you will face sentence enhancement under PC 12022.53 if you utilize a firearm during the robbery. The enhancement will specifically add:
- Ten years if you are the person that used the firearm
- 20 years if your personally and deliberately fired the gun during a robbery
- Twenty-five years to life incarceration if the victim of the robbery sustained great bodily harm or died due to your use of a firearm.
4. The Three Strikes Law
Robbery is deemed as a violent crime under California statutes, which makes it a strike offense. Therefore, if you have been previously convicted of a robbery offense and commit a subsequent felony, you will face double the regular sentence for the crime provided in the law. In addition, if your robbery conviction adds a third strike on your record, you will face a state prison incarceration of twenty-five years.
Fighting Robbery Charges
The above penalties are life-altering. Luckily, with the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer, you can contest robbery charges. Your lawyer can claim you didn’t use force or threaten power. Instead, the victim felt intimidated or coerced enough to surrender the property to you without having to use force. As a result, although you won’t be sentenced for robbery, you will be guilty of a lesser offense.
Similarly, you can assert that you honestly believed the property you took from someone else belonged to you. You can make this assertion even when your claim to be the rightful owner of the property is unreasonable or mistaken. However, if you were robbing to settle a debt, the argument will not hold in court.
In addition, you could claim that someone else took the property, making it a matter of mistaken identity. However, you can only use this defense where the eyewitness cannot identify the robbery perpetrator.
5. California Assault
PEN 240 refers to assault as any illegal act combined with the present ability to cause violent injuries on another person. The various forms of assault include:
Simple assault occurs when you intentionally apply sheer power on another person causing them to fear or expect physical harm. In addition, you don’t need to make physical contact with the person for the offense to qualify as simple assault.
Under PC 240, simple assault is a misdemeanor that attracts a jail term of at most half a year and a monetary court fine of $1000. In addition, if arrested and charged for a subsequent offense, the law will deem you a repeat aggressor, leading to harsher penalties. Luckily, you need a profound lawyer to contest the charges, and they will be dropped or reduced.
Insults are also considered a form of assault because the victims suffer psychological, emotional, and mental trauma. If the victim captured these insults in a voicemail, it becomes admissible evidence, and it could lead to charges and conviction. You will serve a jail term of no more than 12 months upon conviction. Alternatively, the court might grant probation with a condition of mandatory counseling.
However, when charged with a felony, you might serve a prison term of at most 48 months. Luckily, for a person without a criminal record, the case will be built on vagueness, making it easy for your defense lawyer to fight the charges.
Aggravated or Felonious Assault
Aggravated assault is when you maim, wound, or imperil the life of another. The prosecutor must demonstrate that you had unequivocal plans to inflict extreme physical harm on the victim. The harshness of the offense depends on multiple aspects like:
- Your reasons for the aggravated assault
- The degree of wounds inflicted on the victim
- Using a deadly weapon to commit the crime
- The status of the victim
If the victim is injured to the extent they suffer the risk of death, the offense is considered aggravated assault. Also, wielding a weapon during assault amounts to aggravated assault. Moreover, an assault succeeds as aggravated if the victim is a peace officer, teacher, firefighter, or LGBT community member.
The offense is a wobbler, meaning the facts in your case are the determinants of whether you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties for a misdemeanor are no more than a year in jail, informal probation, community labor, victim restitution, court fines not surpassing $10,000.
The same penalties will apply for a felony and an additional and subsequent 25 years to life incarceration if you have a prior record. Again, this is because as a felony, the offense belongs to the Three Strikes Law.
An aggravated assault charge can have severe consequences in your life, including losing your job. So, you need to fight the charges by all means with the help of a defense lawyer.
Find a Violent Crimes Pasadena Defense Lawyer Near Me
Your life is put in a dangerous situation whenever you face a violent crimes charge in Pasadena because you risk being fired, losing child custody, and registering as a sex offender. Therefore, you need to challenge these charges with guidance from profound legal counsel.
At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we offer litigation for murder, rape, sexual assault, robbery, and assault crimes. Call us at 626-628-0564 to evaluate your case and develop defenses that will keep you out of jail or ensure a reduced charge.