Expert Criminal Defense for Violent Crimes
Over the last few years, the State of California has moved to reduce the seriousness of several sections of its Penal Code by passing Proposition 47 and Proposition 57. California also recently reformed the “Three Strikes” statute. While there has been a general trend towards lessening the severity of punishment for drug cases and other “non-violent” offenses, perhaps not surprisingly, California has taken the opposite approach when it comes to crimes of violence.
Almost any felony involving the use of a firearm can trigger California’s “10-20-Life” enhancement. Any felony involving a use of a weapon or serious injuries to the victim triggers other serious felony enhancement. Most crimes involving violence carry potentially lengthy prison sentences. Judges are very reluctant to offer alternative sentences like electronic monitoring or community for crimes of violence.
With over 70 years of combined criminal law experience, VIB Law is the largest and most successful criminal defense firm in Northern California. We have the experience and expertise to help you or a loved one with even the most serious matter. Our firm has successfully defended the following violent crime charges:
- Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter (PC 187)
- Assault with Force Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury (PC 245(a)(4))
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon (PC 245(a)(1))
- Assault with a Firearm (PC 245(a)(2))
- Criminal Threats (PC 422)
- Vehicular Manslaughter (PC 192(c))
- Domestic Violence (PC 273.5)
- Kidnapping (PC 207)
- False Imprisonment (PC 236/PC 237)
Defense Strategies for Violent Crimes Cases
Some California defense attorneys defend violent crimes by taking a “wait-and-see” approach. Upon being hired, they will often do nothing until the first court date. They basically just hope that the District Attorney’s office does not file charges.
At VIB Law, we think this is exactly the wrong approach to defending violent crimes cases. Instead, we believe in a client-centered, proactive approach.
Our first step is to make sure we completely understand our client’s side of the events. The most critical window for defense work is often the first few days following an arrest. We talk to our client and get as much information as we can about the facts of the case. Often we will have one of our experienced defense investigators assist in the process of finding important alibi witnesses or preserving exonerating evidence like surveillance videos. Many times we can intervene with the DA’s office and convince them that no charges (or a less serious charge) should be filed.
The VIB Advantage is our experience and expertise. In all of our violent crimes cases we immediately explore potential defenses such as:
- Alibi – Unfortunately, cases of mistaken identity are all too common these days, even in some very serious matters. Our investigators can help you locate alibi witnesses or otherwise help corroborate your whereabouts during the crime.
- Self Defense – In cases involving violent crimes, it can be critical to immediately contact witnesses who can confirm that any force used was in valid self defense. You should of course photograph your own injuries you may have received in the incident. We can assist in the process of obtaining any needed medical records or other evidence that can help document and prove that any force used was legally valid. Also, we always perform a thorough background check of the victim to see if he or she has a history of violence towards others.
- Mitigation Evidence – In all violent crime cases it is important to gather all potential positive evidence about the client. That can mean traditional items like character witnesses and proof of charity work. In addition, we do everything we can to help put your case in the best light for the court and the DA’s office. For example, if drugs or alcohol were an issue in the case, having the client getting help with these issues can dramatically help with the ultimate result in the case.
What is manslaughter?
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing where there is not an “Intent to Kill” It is broken down into three different “types” of cases:
- Vehicular manslaughter — Similar to an involuntary manslaughter charge, this criminal charge involves the operation of a vehicle that resulted in a lawful act in an unlawfully dangerous manner or gross negligence. Prosecutors have discretion in charging at the felony or misdemeanor level.
- Involuntary manslaughter — Defined by California Penal Code 192(b) PC as an unlawful killing that takes place. The crime differs from Penal Code 187 PC because the death was unintentional. Common defenses involve self-defense, defense of others, and accidents. Oftentimes, the accused was acting reasonably in responding to a threat by using a reasonable amount of force.
- Voluntary manslaughter — Penal Code 192(a) PC involves the killing of another person during an argument or in the heat of passion. A crime of this nature committed under spontaneous circumstances is charged similarly to murder, although there was no malicious intent. Those convicted face up to 11 years in state prison.
What is Attempted Murder?
Penal Code section 664/187 is the code section for “attempted” murder. The crime requires that prosecutors prove that you took at least one direct, yet ineffective step toward killing a person or fetus and you had the intention of committing murder.
Prosecutors can sometimes “overcharge” a case. In other words, charging attempted murder when a lesser charge like assault with a deadly weapon is more appropriate.
Cases involving attempted murder are complex and require skilled handling by an experienced attorney. Common defenses include:
- No specific intent to kill
- No required direct step
- Mistaken ID
- Self Defense
A first-degree attempted murder conviction results in a life sentence in the California state prison with the possibility of parole. However, if the crime involved a peace officer, firefighter or protected person engaged in the performance of his or her duties, a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence is imposed. Second-degree attempted murder (not willful, deliberate and premeditated) leads to a prison sentence between five and nine years. Gang enhancements can also make these charges especially serious.
How is “murder” defined in California?
In Penal Code 187 (a) PC, California law defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought
A “homicide” refers to the killing of another person, whether lawful or unlawful. A homicide therefore includes murder, manslaughter, as well as justifiable killings.
“Murder” is the most aggravated type of homicide. It is always unlawful. What distinguishes murder from manslaughter in California law is the fact that malice is necessarily involved in a murder. Malice is defined as either an intent to kill or may be “implied” where the action taken is so dangerous that it is as if you intended to kill.