Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is an accomplished law firm that handles criminal defense cases of all types including violent crimes in the Vista, CA area. Our Attorneys are seasoned in defending people and specifically those charged with violent crimes. Such crimes include murder, homicide, rape, assault, manslaughter, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, harassment, and extortion. However, legal experts are still debating on the need to reconsider crimes that don’t legally qualify to be violent, yet, they are convicted as felonies or serious crimes in the state.
An important thing to note, the definition of a specific violent crime falls under the particular penal code governing the offense. Also, sentencing and penalties depend on the case at hand and criminal history of the accused. Despite the complex nature of these crimes, our Vista attorneys are well-versed with all the laws governing the specific offense, and can successfully fight the charges.
What is considered a Violent Crime under California Law?
Violent Crimes under California law are described in penal code 667.5 “Violent Felonies” and include 23 offenses. They encompass the most grievous of crimes from terrorism to first-degree murder. The crimes fall under the conviction of a series of crimes described as the California Three Strikes Law. The essence of this law is to have a convict with one prior serious felony conviction to serve a sentence term that is double the stipulated imprisonment term for the offense. If the defendant has two or more prior serious felony convictions, this law mandates a minimum of 25 years to lifetime in the state prison. The violent crimes list has been hugely debated because it excludes other serious felonies. For instance, a number of rape crimes and domestic violence crimes are not included in the list. This raises concern whether people charged with similar offenses that should otherwise be termed as violent should be penalized less defined by the law.
Prosecutors and lawmakers are taking the debate with a reinvigorated urgency to determine which criminal offenses the state should consider violent felonies. The controversy measures in with a statewide voter initiative dubbed Proposition 57. The proposition is an effort to increase the number of rehabilitation services and reduce the population of state prisons. Voters in November 2017 showed up to support the proposition. But since the ballot, prosecutors have not been lenient to question the list which may as well allow very violent crimes offenders to face lesser penalties. Among the most debated provisions of Proposition 57 is the official release of prisoners that have already served their primary sentence. The released prisoners should also have been convicted of crimes that have not been designated as violent under California laws. Therefore, the main interest that lawmakers are persuading is the expansion of the penal code for violent crimes.
Simply put, a violent crime is an act of force towards a victim. The criminal intent could, therefore, solely lie on the forceful act as the violent objective. Most people inquire whether the presence of a weapon during the heinous crime automatically qualifies the criminal intent as violent. It is crucial to note that a violent crime may be committed whether a weapon is present or not.
How are Crimes Statistics Recorded and Analyzed According to Degree of Violence?
It is usually problematic to compare the rampant nature of violent crimes because of the way different jurisdictions classify them. A less equivocal comparison may involve similar offenses being analyzed across jurisdictions. However, since this is not an accurate comparison, sticking to one jurisdiction helps to avoid aggregating equivalent criminal offenses in varying degrees. It is of particular importance to obtain valid comparisons when analyzing types of crimes and how a legal expert should handle each depending on the jurisdiction.
The country maintains two crime databases. Both databases are preserved by the United States Department of Justice. These two databases include:
- The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
- Uniform Crime Report (UCR).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics maintains the NCVS while the Federal Bureau of Investigation heads the Uniform Crime Report. The record of crimes preserved under the NCVS is carried out by the Census Bureau. It is important to note that the crimes recorded under the NCVS include non-fatal violent crimes like sexual assault, rape, robbery, and aggravated household assaults. The UCR also tracks down records of nonfatal violent crimes in addition to non-negligent manslaughter and murder.
Types of Violent Crimes
Violent crimes mostly entail causing harm against other people. The Uniform Crime record describes four major classifications of violent crimes: forcible rape, murder, and aggravated assault. To simplify a general overview of violent crimes, it is important to generally classify violent crimes according to the victim whom the harm has been caused – that is, whether its property or another person.
Violent Crimes of Harm against another Person
When a person harms or threatens to harm another person, the crime could be convicted as a violent offense. Otherwise, two of the major violent crimes that fall under this category include; assault and battery.
An act of assault is defined under penal code 240 of California law. The offense is also known as a simple assault or an act meant to cause injury on someone else. An act of assault is treated as a misdemeanor in California. There are many instances of assault and a good example is when an angered woman hurls a glass towards a man that she thought acted offensively. Therefore, the woman could be convicted of assault. Penalties for an assault misdemeanor is usually a court fine of up to $1000 and/or a jail term of up to six months. For a defendant to be convicted of assault, the following statements must hold true:
- The accused did something that was forceful against someone else.
- The accused did so out of intent and will.
- The accused had no reasonable doubt that his/her intention would cause the other
person to believe it was forceful and violent.
- During the assault attack, the accused acted like she/he had the intent and ability to apply force against someone else.
This offense is usually described as an unlawful intent to use force against someone. The crime is categorized under penal code 242 of California law. Most people think that battery crimes involve severely beating the victim. The case, however, rests on battery even when you have touched the victim in an offensive way. Where the battery crime causes injury to the victim, the defendant may be convicted of a similarly related criminal offense. The related crime is called battery causing injury and is classified under penal code 243(d) PC.
Although people often use the words ‘assault and battery’ non-distinctively, both crimes are in fact different. The major difference between an assault attack and a battery lies in the fact that an assault is simply an attempt to use force; while a battery is the actual use of force on someone else. A simple instance of battery is where a man may spit at someone else after a confrontation.
Battery offenses are usually treated as misdemeanors. On most occasions, such cases attract fines of up to $2000 and/or a jail term of six months. There are instances under California law where a battery can be treated as a wobbler. A wobbler would happen when the defendant has committed a battery offense against a law enforcement officer, firefighter, any public officer or an emergency medical technician.
3. Sexual Crimes
Almost all jurisdictions classify sexual offenses as violent crimes. Sexual assault and rape fall under this category. Despite being termed as two distinct cases, sometimes an instance of sexual assault may turn out to be rape. A good example of this happens when the defendant had sexual contact with a minor – the offense is termed as statutory rape despite the fact that the victim might have consented to the sexual contact, and the alleged victim is legally allowed to file a sexual assault lawsuit. Rape cases are usually termed as violent because of the high offensive physical or emotional manipulation that takes place.
a) Rape. California law under PEN 261 PC describes rape as a forced sexual intercourse where one of the participants is not willing and has been coerced either emotionally or physically. Emotional or physical coercion could be aided by force, fraud, duress, violence, menace, or fear. Other offenses that are similarly related to rape include groping and any other types of unwanted sexual contacts.
Rape cases are always treated as a felony. Often, people think that an instance of rape must involve hectic physical force and violence. But this is not always the case. Take, for instance (a) a public servant who tricks a female job seeker into having sex in order to secure employment and (b) a police officer lures a suspect into sex, after which they promise the accused to let the case go. Both instances are considered as rape despite the fact that no physical violence has been employed – in both cases, the perpetrators used fraud to sexually coerce the victims.
Several crimes related to rape comprise of spousal rape, statutory rape, oral copulation by force, date rape and forcible penetration with an object. The penalty for rape consists of between three to eight years in California State Prison. Specifically where the victim is a minor, a minimum prison term of seven years rising all the way to thirteen years is possible. For a rape case to be termed as a criminal offense, each of the following statements must hold true:
- The act entailed either fraud, force, fear, violence, or threat.
- The victim was unconscious; or
- The victim was not in a position to consent to the sexual advances.
b) Sexual assault. Sexual assault is defined as a type of sexual behavior or sexual contact that usually occurs between two people without particular consent from one of them. The term usually describes sexual offenses like forcible sodomy, fondling, child molestation, forced sexual intercourse, attempted rape, and incest.
Most defendants accused of sexual crimes find themselves depressed and stigmatized. The trial alone leaves them full of fear, psychological trauma, anger, and irritation. Maintaining lifelong relationships with their loved ones becomes a bigger challenge. However, the cases are very complicated since they solely rely on statements. Hence, false accusations are prevalent. In cases where the defendant is falsely accused, a well-versed attorney has the best odds to fight the trial. The attorney will prove that specific elements of crime for a sexual offense were not proven satisfactorily by the prosecutor.
Violent Crimes against Property
Property crimes are classified into two major groups. There are non-theft related violations as well as theft-related violations.
Non-theft related violations normally include arson attacks, vandalism, and trespass. Theft related violations offenses include robbery, auto theft, larceny, burglary and any other type of theft.
- Arson: Section 251 defines arson as the act of maliciously and willfully setting fire to, aiding in the burning, or insightfully procures the burning of property. Arson is usually treated as a felony whose penalty is committing to state imprisonment. However, the punishment for arson hugely depends on some factors including the circumstance surrounding the arson violation. The maximum sentence for violating arson laws would attract up to 25 years of imprisonment.
- Vandalism - California penal code 594 (a) describes vandalism as an unlawful intent or malicious commitment to damage, destroy, or deface property with graffiti. Vandalism is a wobbler in that it can be treated either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Charging the offense depends on the value of vandalized property. Where the property is worth $400 and above, the punishments would incorporate a maximum 12 months county jail imprisonment or a maximum of 10,000 dollars.
Punishments would include 50,000 dollars in maximum fines if the property damaged is valued at 10,000 dollars or above. Also, an automatic suspension of the defendant’s driving license where he/she is convicted of vandalism is possible. The suspension applies despite a trial where the accused pleads guilty in a plea of negotiation.
- Trespass - Trespass is defined under section 602 of California law. Trespass is often meant to protect the sanctity of someone's property. The offense is described as willfully remaining in someone's private property without permission. California treats trespassing as a misdemeanor and the offense attracts a penalty of up to six months of jail term alongside fines.
Defense Strategies for Violent Crimes
Criminal defense strategies vary depending on the type of violent crime.
Murder: While murder cases are not regular, you might still find yourself on trial for murder. This may attract a severe penalty and is, therefore, necessary to customize an excellent defense strategy. Understanding the way out through a murder trial would involve putting into consideration events resulting to the murder. Sometimes defendants are falsely accused; perhaps, it was an act of self-defense that resulted to the murder; maybe, the murder was not intentional and is probably a second-degree murder case; law enforcement officers have conducted illegal seizures and searches without search warrants or there was mistaken identity. All these are reasons for a murder prosecution. Therefore, it is important to acquire a well versed criminal attorney to analyze the circumstance of your trial.
Sexual Assault and Rape: The first step to crafting a perfect defense strategy during a rape or sexual assault trial is to establish whether a rape kit examination was carried out. The examination is known during trials as sexual assault forensic evidence. The kit is used to collect hairs, pieces of clothes, semen, saliva, or any other body fluids. Given that the prosecuting bench failed to carry out the examination, the chances of winning the case are quite possible.
Property Crimes: The nature of property offense and the circumstance surrounding the crime massively influence the route a perfect defense strategy will take. A perfect strategy is determining whether the destruction of property was out of necessity. Sometimes the defendant might have been coerced to commit a crime against property. A criminal attorney will also determine whether the intent was there during the act. There are occasions that a person might have damaged property they thought belonged to them. A proof that there was no intention to commit the crime is a good defense strategy against violent property crimes.
Assault: Assault cases have the highest odds of securing a successful defense. In most cases, the cause of attack could have either been self-defense, defense of others, defense of private property, or voluntarily consenting to an act of assault from the victim. The best defense strategy to pitch, however, will depend on the circumstance surrounding the assault attack.
How Do I Locate a Vista Criminal Attorney Well-versed with Violent Crimes Near Me?
Violent crimes often call for top-notch training and expertise in criminal laws. Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm guarantees you qualified expertise from one of our highly trained criminal defense attorneys. If you are looking for successful results, call us at 888-888-8888 and you will speak to a qualified attorney offering expertise in violent crimes. Contact us immediately if you have been accused of any violent crime in Vista, CA and all of North County.