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Domestic Violence is a Common Criminal Charge in California

Domestic violence is at once tragic and common in the state of California. Along with assault and battery, theft, driving, drug, and sex crimes, it is one of the most frequently occurring crimes in the state. If you have been charged with an offense that fits within the category of domestic violence, you face a number of very serious consequences if convicted. Whatever the specifics of the charges against you, it is in your interest to be represented by an experienced California criminal defense attorney. The purpose of this article is to explain the different criminal charges for types of domestic violence in California.  If you have been charged with any of them, contact an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Domestic Battery is a Type of Domestic Violence in California

Domestic Battery is any willful and unlawful touching that is harmful or offensive, and committed against a spouse or former spouse, cohabitant or former cohabitant, fiancé or former fiancé, co-parent, or prior boyfriend or girlfriend. It is the relationship of the alleged victim to the defendant that distinguishes domestic battery from ordinary battery. The types of unlawful touchings that constitute a harmful or offensive contact are many and include punching, pushing, shoving, clothing ripping, hair pulling, scratching, clawing, and more. Penalties for conviction of misdemeanor domestic battery in California include up to one year in jail, a fine of $2,000, and probation.

Child Abuse is a Type of Domestic Violence in California

Child abuse is the act of physically injuring or imposing cruel physical punishment on a child.  Other types of abuse, including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect, are prohibited as well, but under specific statutes. Using a belt to discipline a child and slapping a child with enough force so as to leave a mark are two examples of child abuse in California. Depending on the specifics of the abuse in question, child abuse is punishable by one to six years in jail and a fine of up to $6,000.

Elder Abuse is a Type of Domestic Violence in California

Elder abuse, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and endangerment, and financial abuse, is a type of abuse directed at persons of at least 65 years of age. Elder abuse occurs both in the home and in nursing homes and retirement communities. Depending on the severity of the charges, conviction for elder abuse brings penalties of two to four years in jail, $10,000 in fines, formal probation, and, in the event of financial abuse, restitution.

What to Do if You Have Been Charged With Domestic Violence in California

If you have been charged with any form of domestic abuse in the state of California, including domestic battery, child abuse, or elder abuse, contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney. With jail time, fines, reputational damage, and more at stake, it is imperative that you mount the strongest possible legal defense. An experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney will fight to protect your rights.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in the Wake of a Murder in California

Losing a loved one to murder is perhaps the most difficult thing one can be forced to go through in life. The future transforms from clear and bright to dark and unknowable when a loved one is taken. Shock, grief, anguish, anger, sense of loss – these emotions come first. At some point, whether early on or with the passage of time, there emerges a deep need for justice. Under California law, there are two avenues for seeking justice, criminal and civil. The criminal justice system punishes wrongdoers for unlawful acts. The civil justice system affords victims and survivors the opportunity to seek justice from wrongdoers in the form of financial compensation.  The purpose of this article is to familiarize victims and survivors with broad strokes of how justice is dispensed in each system. If you have lost a loved one to murder, contact an experienced California attorney about filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

The State Prosecutes Murder in California

In California, the state itself prosecutes individuals charged with murder. There is no need to independently hire an attorney to prosecute murder in the criminal justice system. The state has criminalized murder and works aggressively to convict and punish individuals guilty of this most heinous crime. To convict, the state must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. A killing is unlawful when it is not justified – by self-defense, for example. A killing is committed with malice aforethought when it is done with one of four types of specific intent:

  • Intent to kill
  • Intent to inflict serious bodily harm
  • Reckless disregard of an unjustifiably high risk to human life
  • Felony murder rule (a killing that occurs during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony.)  

If the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of any one of these four types of intent in conjunction with unlawful killing of a human being, a conviction for murder is proper.

An Attorney Litigates a Wrongful Death Claim in California’s Civil Justice System

While the state prosecutes murder in the criminal justice system, it is an attorney who litigates a wrongful death claim in California’s civil justice system. While conviction in a criminal court will send a murderer to prison for many years, it will not result in financial restitution to survivors. To seek compensation for the lost future income a loved one was to provide, in addition to medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of love and affection, and other losses, you must file a wrongful death claim in California’s civil justice system. While the burden of proof in the criminal context is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it is the lower “by a preponderance of evidence” standard in the civil context. If you have lost a loved one to murder, contact a dedicated and experienced California wrongful death attorney.

Defending Against Gang Crimes Charges in California

California imposes strict punishments on gang-related crimes. If you have been charged with a gang crime, it is imperative that you contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney.

Both California and Federal Law Punish Gang Crimes Harshly

In the United States, there are two bodies of law – State and Federal. With regards to gang crimes, both California (state) and federal law impose strict penalties. This is because both bodies of law allow for sentencing “enhancements.” An “enhancement” is an increase. An enhanced punishment may be ordered by a court for a gang crime conviction even if you are not officially a member of a gang. Committing a crime on behalf of a gang or as an attempt to become a member of gang is enough.

On the state level, the law that provides for sentencing enhancement for gang crimes in California is Penal Code 186.22 PC. Under this law, anyone who commits a felony crime to benefit a gang is subject to an enhanced prison sentence. Importantly, the concept of “benefit” requires specific intent. Specific intent is a legal doctrine that pertains to state of mind. In other words, to be guilty of committing a crime for the benefit of a gang, you must intend to promote, further, or aid in the gang’s criminal activities. If specific intent is proven in court, an enhanced sentence is proper under California law.

On the federal level, the law that provides for sentencing enhancement for gang crimes in California and the other 49 states is 18 USC 521 – the Criminal Street Gangs law. The federal Criminal Street Gangs statute authorizes a penalty enhancement of as many as 10 years for gang members who commit crimes in furtherance of the criminal activities of a gang, or simply to maintain or improve his or her place in the gang. The enhancement is not merely an extension of the penalty for the underlying crime, but an additional punishment. For example, if a gang member commits the felony of armed robbery, he or she will be punished both for the felony and for committing the felony to further the gang’s activities. As you can see from both the state and federal laws, gang-related crimes are punished extremely harshly in the U.S.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Defend You Against Gang Crime Charges in California

With enhanced punishment meted out for conviction of gang crimes in California, you need an experienced California criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights and defend against the charges levied by state and/or federal law. To convict you of a gang crime, the prosecutor must prove that you committed the underlying crime, that you were a member of a gang, that the gang actually meets the criteria of a recognized criminal gang, and that you committed the underlying crime in furtherance of the gang’s activities. An experienced California criminal defense attorney will explore all avenues of reasonable doubt and work to protect your rights.

Defending Against Voluntary Manslaughter Charges in California

It is not always the case that murder charges result when one human being kills another. The reason for this is because the law sometimes factors in intent when determining the criminal charges to be levied against a defendant. The purpose of this article is to explain the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. If you have been charged with voluntary manslaughter in the state of California, it is imperative that you contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney. With the state’s prosecutor making every effort to prove each element of the charges against you, an experienced attorney is needed to protect your legal rights.

Voluntary Manslaughter is a Lesser Charge to Murder

Murder is the most serious charge that the state can bring against a defendant accused of killing another human being. The legal definition of murder is “the killing of a human being by another human being with malice aforethought.” This definition is one of the oldest in the law, dating all the way back to the common law era in England. To the layperson, the words that jump out are “malice aforethought.” What this antiquated language, sometimes termed “mens rea,” means in modern terms is “specific intent.” Specific intent can be understood as “state of mind.” To bring it all together, a murder charge is only appropriate when there is probable cause that the defendant acted with a certain type of intent in allegedly killing the victim.  

There are, specifically, four types of “malice aforethought”:

  • Intent to Kill
  • Intent to Commit Grievous Bodily Harm
  • Depraved Heart
  • Felony Murder

Voluntary Manslaughter does not reflect any of these four types of “malice aforethought.” Its applicability is rather narrow. A charge of voluntary manslaughter is only appropriate when a human being kills another human being during a sudden dispute or in the “heat of passion.” The classic example that brings this abstract legal terminology home is the scenario in which a spouse comes home to find his or her spouse in bed with another person and, in a sudden fit of rage, kills the both of them. Returning to the concept of state of mind, intent is clearly different in this scenario than the four types of malice aforethought. This is especially the case with regard to the duration of forming the mind state to kill. “Suddenness” is key – the being caught off guard and enraged by a most traumatic sight.

Penal Code 192(a) Governs Voluntary Manslaughter in California

In the state of California, the law that governs voluntary manslaughter is Penal Code 192(a).  Conviction of the crime will result in a term of three, six, or eleven years in one of California’s state prisons. With jail time a very real possibility, it is imperative that you entrust your legal defense to a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney. Protect your legal rights and contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Understanding the Insanity Defense in California

If you or a loved one have been charged the murder in the state of California and believe that you were not in your right mind at the time of the alleged incident, the legal defense of insanity may be available to you. The purpose of this article is to explain the insanity test used by the state of California. To protect your legal rights and understand the possible applicability of this defense to the charges against you, contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney.

The M’Naughten Test

There are four insanity tests used in the courtrooms of the Unites States: 1

  • M’Naughten
  • Irresistible Impulse
  • Modal Penal Code
  • Durham

Each state is free to utilize the test it believes to be the most reliable and effective. The M’Naughten Test is the test that California applies when considering the validity of an invocation of the defense of insanity. The reason the insanity test is made available is a theoretically humane one – that you cannot be found guilty of a crime you committed if you were legally insane at the time of the commission of the crime. The rationale here goes to state of mind. To be guilty of the crime of murder, for example, you must have possessed either an intent to kill, an intent to commit serious bodily harm, a so-called “depraved heart,” or killed another human being during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony.

Intent is synonymous with state of mind, and, with regard to murder, is often marked by the elements of deliberation and premeditation. These mental acts are considered to require a sane mind to truly reflect intent. After all, it is the ill intent that merits the harsh punishment meted out for a murder conviction. But what if a killing was the product of an insane mind – a mind that does not understand morality or the consequences of certain actions? This is where the M’Naughten Test comes in.

Under the M’Naughten Test, you are considered legally insane if you either did not understand the nature of a criminal act you committed or did not understand that your actions were morally wrong. If either prong of the test is met, you are considered legally insane and thus cannot be found guilty of the crime you have been charged with.

A Successful Insanity Defense Leads to Mental Health Care

If you are found legally insane under California’s M’Naughten Test, you will be sent to a state mental hospital instead of prison. To invoke the insanity defense, it is imperative that you rely on the skill and expertise of a California criminal defense attorney. Evidence will need to be presented, including that pertaining to your mental health history, and it must be proved by a preponderance of evidence. With your legal rights and future at stake, contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney immediately.

Defending Against Embezzlement Charges in the State of California

Embezzlement is a surprisingly common crime in the state of California. People assume that embezzlement can only occur in a white-collar context. This is simply not true, as the elements for the criminal charge of embezzlement can be satisfied in many contexts and need not involve large sums of money. Embezzlement may be committed with property or cash. The purpose of this article to explain how California defines embezzlement and what the penalties are for the crime.  

If you have been charged with embezzlement, it is critical that you contact a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The state’s prosecutor will be working to prove every element of the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. For this reason, you need a skilled attorney to defend your legal rights and explore every avenue of doubt.

California Penal Code 503 Criminalizes Embezzlement

Embezzlement is a fairly complicated crime involving several legal elements. Under California Penal Code 503, you may be charged with the crime of embezzlement if an owner of property (e.g. cash, personal property, real property) entrusted the property to you, did so because he or she trusted you, and you fraudulently converted or used the property for your own benefit while intending to deprive the owner of the property or its use. As you can see, embezzlement is a multi-layered crime. This means that the state’s prosecutor will have to put a lot of work in, as there are so many elements to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • First, there is entrustment. The state’s prosecutor will have to prove that the victim, whether directly or through a valid agent, entrusted you with the property in question.
  • Second, the prosecutor will have to prove that the victim trusted you. Common valid bases of trust include employer-employee and bailor-bailee relationship. The latter relationship involves a temporary transfer of possession of property (e.g. when you give the keys of your car to a valet to park it).  
  • Lastly, fraudulent conversion is synonymous with taking or using. The fraud aspect of fraudulent conversion is present when you seek to take unfair advantage of the property-entrusting person or intend to cause that person a loss by breaking his or her trust or intentionally failing to honor a duty.

Embezzlement Penalties Depend on the Value of the Property

The more embezzled, the greater the punishment is the most general rule with regard to penalties of an embezzlement conviction. Accordingly, the court will look to the nature and extent of the property in question. Smaller violations may be categorized as a misdemeanor rather than a more serious felony charge. Conviction for either, importantly, may result in jail time. For this reason – for your freedom – it is essential that you contact a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney to mount the strongest possible defense against the state prosecutor’s efforts to obtain a conviction.

Defending Against Robbery Charges in the State of California

Robbery and Burglary are commonly confused crimes in the state of California and elsewhere.  Both crimes are prosecuted aggressively and subject to serious penalties including jail time. If you have been charged with robbery, it is essential that you contact a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In the face of jail time and other penalties, you need a professional to mount the strongest possible defense on your behalf and challenge the state’s efforts to prove each element of the crime of robbery beyond a reasonable doubt. The purpose of this article is to explain the difference between robbery and burglary, and why it is so important to be represented by an attorney when charged with either crime in the state of California.

The Force or Fear Requirement

Most people know that both burglary and robbery have something to do with stealing, but are not quite sure about the specifics of each criminal charge. In the most general sense, it is the requirement of force or fear that distinguishes the crime of robbery from the crime of burglary.  The law that codifies this distinction in the state of California is Penal Code 211. Penal Code 211 defines robbery as the taking of personal property that is in the possession of another person, from the victim’s person or immediate presence, against the victim’s will, and through the use of either force of fear. As is the case with every legal definition, every word matters.

As you might imagine, the term “personal property” includes a vast array of items. Among the most common are cash, jewelry, electronic devices, and other valuable goods. The term “another person” is as simple as it sounds – it is just someone other than the robber.  The language “from the victim’s person” refers to the victim’s body or clothing. Similarly, the “immediate presence” of the victim refers to the area very close to the victim. “Against the victim’s will” means that the victim did not give the personal property in question in a voluntary manner. Rather, as the last element – “through force of fear” – indicates, the personal property was surrendered in response to the use of force or fear. Force includes a variety of physical actions, such as grabbing and shoving. Fear may be instilled via threats of violence or the brandishing of a weapon, such as a knife or gun.

Burglary lacks the requirement of use of force or fear. It simply includes the entering of a room, structure, or locked vehicle with the intent to commit a felony therein. As you might imagine, a robbery conviction is punished more severely precisely because of the use of force of fear. This element is what makes robbery a more serious crime, in some ways, than burglary. Accordingly, a first-degree robbery charge in the state of California may be punished by up to nine years in prison. If you have been charged with robbery in California, contact a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney immediately. 

Over 200 Immigrants with Criminal Records Face Deportation

Last month, immigration authorities performed a four-day sweep in Southern California, resulting in 244 immigrants with criminal records taken into custody. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, over half of those taken into custody had at least one felony conviction (generally violent felonies, weapon charges, or sexual abuse charges), and all had been convicted of at least one crime. The rest had multiple misdemeanors. Approximately two-thirds of the immigrants taken into custody were Mexican.

Until the practice was deemed unconstitutional, immigration officials had relied on local prisons to assist with the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions. Officials would ask prisons to hold the offending immigrants after their sentence had ended so that federal agents could take them into custody and deport them. Last year, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that this practice violates the constitution. Accordingly, California passed a law that protects all immigrants except those with the most serious criminal charges against them.

David Marin, deputy field officer for the immigration agency’s enforcement and removal operations in Southern California explained that “by doing these operations periodically, we show everyone what we can do to make the community safer. Because local law enforcement has not been able to cooperate with us like they used to, they have been releasing criminal aliens into the community, and we have to spend a lot of resources to be able to find them.”

This past summer in California, the debate over deportations of immigrants with criminal records was renewed with the murders of two women. In July, a woman was murdered in San Francisco by an immigrant who had been deported back to Mexico more than once. Also, last month, an illegal immigrant in Santa Maria allegedly raped and beat a woman to death in her home.

Officials justify the sweep and subsequent deportation of immigrants with criminal records by saying that this operation focuses on dangerous members of the community that have been convicted of murder, sexual abuse, or drunk driving. “What we’re doing is targeted enforcement — these are all people who are not only here illegally, but are convicted criminals,” Mr. Marin said. “These are people who are preying on our communities. We’re not just rounding up the lady selling tamales on the corner or the guy standing in front of a Home Depot.”

Those immigrants who have been arrested in the sweep without previous deportations will be entitled to an administrative hearing. Those taken into custody with criminal conviction and previous deportations will most likely be deported quickly.

Contact the Leslie Legal Group

If you or a loved one has questions about immigration law or deportation, it is essential that you retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The Leslie Legal Group has extensive experience helping clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.