An Important Designation
Among the potential criminal charges you could face, felonies are the most serious. Far more serious than infractions or misdemeanors, felonies are punishable by prison time and can revoke many rights. Felonies considered as violent are unique in that they often result in enhanced sentences (i.e. harsher penalties) and more significant long-term consequences than non-violent felonies do. The designation of “violent” has a significant impact on the sentence a defendant could face, but it goes beyond the general nature of violence. Even certain crimes involving non-physical violence or even violence not directed at a particular individual may be considered violent felonies. Thus, it is important to understand just what constitutes a violent felony in California.
Generally speaking, a violent felony is one that involves the use of violence or a threat of violence while committing the crime. These are typically crimes against persons because they involve someone (i.e. the victim) to whom the violence is directed.
Violent felonies, under the California statute, include such crimes as:
- Attempted murder
- Voluntary manslaughter (meaning the defendant had no prior intent to kill but rather acted out of the heat of passion or from some form of adequate provocation)
- Sexual offenses such as rape, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation and sodomy
- Some types of threats made to victims or witnesses
- Burglary in the first degree
These are just a few examples of violent felony offenses in California, but there are also broader designations of what type of felony can be labeled as violent. For example, any felony offense that is punishable by death or a life sentence in prison is considered a violent felony. Similarly, any act that inflicts great bodily injury on a person (other than an accomplice) can be charged as a violent felony. But, within these specified offenses, certain other conditions may need to be met for the offense to be charged as a violent felony.
You do not need to actually engage in an act of violence to be charged with a violent felony. As stated above, even threatening to use violence can result in a violent felony charge. What matters more is the perpetrator's intent to use violence. Because of this element, dealing with a violent felony charge can be complicated and requires the guidance of a skilled California criminal defense attorney.
The classification of violent felony is significant. Not only are violent offenses punished more severely, violent offenders are often denied certain opportunities other offenders are granted. As California's prison system undergoes continuing reform to reduce the prison population, reduce operation costs and improve prison conditions for inmates, violent offenders are the least likely to benefit. Under the recent Proposition 57, certain non-violent offenders have been granted increased opportunities to earn early release on parole or to be released early for good behavior. Those convicted of violent felonies, however, are not extended this significant opportunity.
A violent felony conviction can revoke some of the defendant's rights, enhance his or her sentence, and even take away certain opportunities non-violent offenders have, such as early release. It may seem like the designation of “violent” with regards to felony charges is arbitrary, but that is not the case. Facing charges for a violent offense is serious, and you need to speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney about what your charges mean, the penalties the court may impose, and what your rights are. Certain offenses have also been subject to reclassification, meaning they were changed from being violent to non-violent. An attorney can inform you of how such changes may apply to your case and help you defend your rights in court. In ideal circumstances, a skilled attorney may even be able to reduce your charge to a non-violent offense. Speak with a knowledgeable attorney in your area today if you are facing charges for a violent felony and are serious about fighting your charges.
If you are facing charges for a violent felony, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your rights and can aggressively advocate on your behalf in court. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.