Certain criminal activities under the California Penal Code are defined as violent offenses. Such violent acts are typically prosecuted as felonies. To break it down, any action intended to harm another is considered a violent crime. It must be determined that your actions injured another for you to be prosecuted for a violent crime. The degree of the charge is pegged on the extent of the injury or harm inflicted on another.

In dispensing justice, all parties deserve fair representation. This is our belief as the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Law Firm. Your innocence in the matter is all we seek to prove against the violent crimes allegations brought against you. We continue to offer legal advice and representation to the community in Los Angeles, CA, and you too can consult us on your case. Here is a look at how violent crimes is defined and prosecuted in California.

Violent Crimes under the California Penal Code

California's Penal Code Section 667.5 (c) defines violent crimes as violent felonies. It further lists various offenses that are considered as violent felonies. The analysis below should help you understand the various crimes, how the felony should be prosecuted, as well as the punishments to each offense.

  1. Robbery

Robbery, as defined under Penal Code 211, is the taking on someone else’s property against their will through force or intimidation. This definition at face value, depicts robbers in masks wielding guns or dangerous weapons and taking money or property through fear or intimidation. However, the law considers the taking of money or property robbery even if fear was not used as in the following cases:

  • Drugging another and taking their possessions in their unconscious state
  • Threatening the owner or another with violence after caught stealing to escape
  • Breaking into a house and threatening the occupants with violence before stealing their property

Felony penalties accrue for robbery charges. You will either be charged with robbery in the first- degree or second-degree depending on the circumstances of your case. First-degree charges are brought forward if the following are determined to have occurred:

  • The victim was a passenger or a driver of a cable car, bus, taxi, or any other means of transportation
  • The robbery was in an inhabited house, trailer or boat
  • The victim was robbed immediately after using an ATM

You will be fined to the tune of ten thousand ($10,000) dollars, and a jail term of three (3), four (4) or six (6) years. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be up for felony probation, an alternative to jail time. If you had accomplices while committing the crime, your prison sentence increases to three (3), six(6), or nine (9) years.

Second-degree robbery charges, on the other hand, are brought forward if the conditions of your case do not meet any of the first-degree circumstances. You are liable to a fine of no more than ten thousand ($10,000) dollars and a prison term of two (2), three (3), or five (5) years. The judge may also order that you serve formal probation.

  1. Arson

Penal Code 451 defines arson as the malicious setting of a property on fire. Penal Code 452 describes the crime of arson as the unlawful causing of fire, which may is referred to as reckless arson or reckless burning.  

Under Penal Code 451, the prosecution must prove that you set fire to a property (house, car, or land) and it was either damaged or destroyed. Finally, there should be no doubt as to your intentions. It must be proved that you intended to harm another or destroy their property.

However, under Penal Code 452, the prosecution should show the court that you recklessly burned the property. Reckless behavior is considered as that in which you were aware that your actions posed a risk of a fire. You ignored the risk, and as such, the fire damaged or destroyed property. If a reasonable person would have acted differently given the same situation, you are considered to have acted recklessly.

The penalties in an arson case vary. Malicious arson is punishable by jail time or fines. You may serve up to:

  • Sixteen (16) months, two (2) or three (3) years if the malicious arson was on personal property
  • Two (2), four (4), or six (6) years if the arson was on forested land, or a structure.
  • Three (3), five (5), or eight (8) years if the arson case was on inhabited property or structure
  • Five (5), seven (7), or nine (9) years if the arson caused great bodily harm

You could be required by the courts to also pay fines over and above any of the above prison sentences, or as a punishment enough. The malicious arson charge carries a fine of up to ten thousand ($10,000) dollars. You may also be required to pay an additional fifty thousand ($50,000) dollars, or twice the value of the gain you expected from causing the fire if the financial reward was the goal. If convicted of malicious arson, the conviction goes to your permanent record as a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.

Reckless burning, on the other hand, is a misdemeanor offense. It is punishable with a fine of up to one thousand ($1,000) dollars or a six-month jail sentence. If the arson caused bodily harm to another, the prosecution might prosecute your case as a felony or a misdemeanor. Any successful reckless conviction attracts the following jail terms:

  • Reckless burning up of forestland or a structure is punishable as a misdemeanor with a six-month-long jail term. Felony sentences carry a sixteen-month long, two (2) years or three (3) years spent in state prison.
  • Reckless burning that results in significant bodily injury is punishable with a one (1) year in jail for a misdemeanor offense two (2), four (4) or six (6) years spent in state prison if it is a felony charge.
  • If an inhabited property was damaged or destroyed as a result of reckless burning, you stand to serve one year in jail as a misdemeanor sentence. If the case were prosecuted as a felony charge, you would serve two (2), four (4), or six (6) years in state prison.
  1. Sexual Penetration

Penal Code 289 (a) defines sexual penetration as a crime if it was done against the victim’s will through duress, menace, force, violence, or by fear of bodily injury. Section (j) brings in the aspect of underage sex. If anyone commits any form of sexual activity with another, who is below the age of fourteen (14) years is liable for sexual offenses charges.

If found guilty of the crime under section (a) of Penal Code 289, you may serve a three (3), six (6), or eight-year prison sentence as punishment for the crime. Culprits of a section (j) charge are punished by a prison term of three (3), six (6), or eight (8) years.

  1. Murder or Voluntary Manslaughter


The face value definition of murder describes it as the killing of another. Penal Code 187 further extends the definition by introducing the aspect of malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is the malicious disregard of human life whose actions result in the death of another. Murder charges are prosecuted as those in the first degree or the second as well as capital murder. Your intention when committing the crime is brought to question, and that is what informs the prosecution’s decision to seek punishment for the first, second-degree, or capital murder charges.

For first-degree murder charges, the prosecution will seek to prove the following:

  • That the murder was a result of a destructive device, poison, torture, weapons of mass destruction or armor-piercing ammunition
  • It was a case of a premeditated, willful or deliberate act
  • Certain serious felonies were committed during the act, and as such, it invoked the California felony murder rule

There are certain circumstances, termed as special circumstances, which lead to murder. At first instance, the murder case fits the profile of a first-degree murder charge. Add the following circumstances, and you are looking at capital murder. California Penal Code 190.2 provides the circumstances that elevate first-degree murder to capital murder:

  • Killing more than one victim
  • Killing another for financial gain
  • Killing a witness to prevent them from testifying
  • Killing a judge, police officer, prosecutor, juror, firefighter, or an elected official
  • Killing another because of their race, color, religion, political inclination, nationality or country of origin
  • Murdering for the reward of street gang status under Penal Code 186.22
  • Killing while attempting to commit, committing or after committing a felony within the first-degree felony murder rule

If your actions fail to meet the criteria above (murder in the first degree), second-degree murder charges will be brought against you. Instances that are considered murder in the second degree include:

  • Actions in self-defense
  • It was a case of an accidental killing
  • The evidence produced to the courts in the case were acquired through illegal search and seizure
  • The forensic evidence was contaminated
  • The accused was insane at the time of committing the murder
  • The confession was coerced
  • The accused was mistakenly identified

Penalties for the murder offense vary depending on what type of murder you are charged with. First-degree murder charges are punished under Penal Code 187. The defendant faces up to 25-years-to-life in prison. However, there are instances in which the murder is prosecuted as a hate crime. In such instances, the offense is punishable with life without the possibility of parole sentence.

Capital murder is punishable with either the death penalty or a life prison sentence with the possibility of parole. While the death sentencing may be issued by a judge if found guilty, however, the execution is subject to a temporary moratorium issued on execution orders in California. The temporary order came in effect on March 2019.

A successful conviction of a second-degree murder charge is punishable with a 15-year prison sentence. However, the 15-year prison term can be increased if it is proven that:

  • The defendant served a previous murder conviction sentence. If so, the new conviction will increase to a life without the possibility of parole
  • If the victim in the case is a peace officer, the prison term changes to twenty-five (25) years-to-life
  • If the defendant used a firearm from a moving vehicle to cause serious harm, the defendant is looking at twenty (20) years-to-life imprisonment
  • Life without the possibility of parole charges will be introduced to a defendant if the victim is a peace officer. The sentencing is upheld if it is determined that; the defendant intended to kill the officer, or the defendant intended to inflict serious bodily harm on the officer, or a firearm or a deadly weapon was used to kill the officer.

The use of a firearm in the murder will attract additional penalties. The penalties are as follows:

If the defendant personally used the firearm to commit the murder. This offense attracts an additional 10, 20, or 25 years in prison. The defendant will also be required to pay restitution fees to the victim’s family. Further, the defendant will pay an amount of no more than ten thousand ($10,000) dollars as fine for the crime. Moreover, the defendant will lose their rights to possess firearms and have a strike added on their record.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is prosecuted under Penal Code 192 (a). Rarely do prosecutors formally charge voluntary manslaughter as the original charge. The penalties for voluntary manslaughter are less than murder and is considered as a lesser charge. Therefore, in most cases, voluntary manslaughter features in plea bargain negotiations, where the defense will opt for this charge as opposed to murder.

The charge, voluntary manslaughter, is a felony. You may face three, six, or eleven years in state prison if convicted.  This is the reason why the prosecutors will prefer this charge if it is in their view that they have insufficient evidence for a murder charge.

  1. Extortion

It is upon the prosecution to prove that you violate Penal Code 518, the crime of extortion or blackmail. The prosecution must demonstrate that:

  • Threats or force was used to compel another to give up their property or money
  • Threats were used to force a public officer to carry out an official act
  • A public official using their position to force another to give up their money or property

A wide range of scenarios may feature as extortion case. However, the guiding principles are set in the three aspects above under Penal Code 518. Further, the matter can be sieved through threat, injury, and intent. That is, an act is considered extortion if there was a threat issued (through action, a letter, or a signature) to take up property or money that was not yours. Injury in the matter is considered as an aggravating matter. That is if the victim was injured, additional penalties might be introduced as punishment for the crime.

If convicted of the crime, the defendant may be looking at either a two, three, or four-year jail term and a ten thousand ($10,000) dollar fine. Victims of the crime may also bring up suits as a civil matter.

  1. Rape

Penal Code 261 defines rape as the non-consensual sexual intercourse that resulted from fraud or threats that robbed the victim of a consenting choice. When the term rape is mentioned, physical assault comes to mind. While this is the form most rape cases take, it does not mean it is the only form of rape. Other circumstances are considered as rape cases. They include:

  • Having sexual intercourse with a passed out lady
  • A doctor offering sex as the only treatment for a particular illness
  • A police officer seeking sexual favors in return for freeing a DUI offender
  • Other cases as stipulated under Penal Code 262 Spousal Rape, Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape, Penal Code 266c Oral Copulation by Force, and Penal Code 289 Forcible Penetration by use of a Foreign Object

If convicted of a rape charge, you may be looking at three, six, or eight years served in prison. If the victim in the matter were a minor, you would serve a minimum of seven years with a maximum of thirteen years in jail.

Should the victim decide to sue for the offense, they can only do so in civil court. Their case will be to sue for damages as compensation for medical bills, lost earning capacity, lost wages, pain, and suffering. They may also seek punitive damages.

Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Violent felonies are crimes that attract severe punishment that is life-altering. The conviction goes on your criminal record and may affect your chances at a normal life. This should not be your story. There are various situations that may have led to the commission of the above crimes. In some cases, the charges are based on false accusations, malicious intent, or inconclusive investigations. Having an attorney in your defense is the first strategy at fighting the charges to have them reduced or dropped altogether. We at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Law Firm have the experiences in defending violent felony charges. Our team is ready to evaluate your case and offer you representation. Get in touch with our Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer today by calling 424-333-0943 and let us have the conversation of how best to handle the case.