As our society changes, so do our laws. Perhaps a good example of this is California's new law on recording violent felonies, which the court can now view as an aggravating factor. The new law on recording crimes seeks to keep pace with the times, as social media is now being used to publicize violent crimes. Let's take a look at this new law, why it is important, and what could happen if you break it.
A New Era
In recent years, more and more crimes have been caught on video and uploaded to social media accounts. Some just happened to be recorded while others were committed for the sole purpose of posting the record of which on social media. Not only do these videos humiliate the victim, they sensationalize violent crimes, both of which the State of California has taken steps to prevent and punish.
Under the new law, the judge can view the willful recording or streaming of a violent felony as an aggravating factor. Aggravating factors are elements that enable the court to enhance the penalties for a crime. Common aggravating factors include prior convictions, causing bodily injury, or gang affiliations. Now, recording a violent felony is an aggravating factor that can enable the judge to increase the penalties the defendant faces.
Judges do not have to increase the penalties in light of such a factor, but they now have the option to do so at their discretion. This specific aggravating factor simply allows the judge to enhance the sentence if he or she feels it is in the interests of justice.
The recording must have been willful and with the specific intent to encourage or otherwise facilitate the violent act. For example, if a person wore a body cam while committing a felony assault with the intent of uploading the video to social media, the judge could use that factor as a reason to increase the severity of the sentence. Accidental recordings, while unlikely, cannot be considered an aggravating factor. Similarly, recording without the intent to encourage, contribute to, or facilitate the offense is not an aggravating factor. For example, if someone was unknowingly recorded by another phone while that person was committed a felony assault, but had no intention of being recorded or to upload that video to social media, the judge could not consider that factor when sentencing.
The specific outcome of this aggravating factor will vary from case to case. To get a better idea of what could happen in your case if this aggravating factor was present, consult with a seasoned California criminal defense attorney.
The Use of Social Media in the Commission of Crimes
In recent years, we've witnessed a spate of social media-publicized crimes, such as assaults. Some were committed with no other motivation than getting “likes”. Unfortunately, for victims, the social media aftermath only adds to their trauma. And, for offenders, hard evidence of the crime can be readily obtained. In response to this growing yet concerning trend, California lawmakers have stepped forward to instate changes that would criminalize video recording violent felonies for the purposes of social media, meaning the bystander holding the phone could go to jail for the assault, too. While controversial, these steps seek to counteract the ultimate “normalization” of violent crime by ensuring those recording crimes are punished as well.
Involved in a Crime? Seek Legal Guidance
Always speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney in your area if you were involved in a crime or are facing criminal charges. No matter the circumstances, you should take your charges seriously, especially if the crime was caught on video. As laws change, there is a period of time in which the courts, the prosecution, and defense attorneys must figure out how to apply new laws in cases for just results. Thus, work with an attorney who practices criminal defense exclusively, as he or she will have up to date knowledge of this new law and others like it.
Have you been arrested and are facing criminal charges? Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you get the outcome you deserve. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.