Individuals who have been charged with violent crimes face harsh penalties; therefore, it is important for them to consult a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately – and before talking to the police – to ensure that their rights are upheld.
Sara Azari has experience in defending clients in a variety of violent crime cases. The Law Office of Sara Azari routinely and successfully fights charges of:
Assault & Battery
Involuntary / Voluntary Murder
In order to find guilt on a charge of reckless arson, the prosecution must prove the defendant set fire to or burned (or assisted in burning) a structure, forest land or property and the defendant did so recklessly (recklessness requires proof that the individual was aware that his/her actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing a fire, he/she ignores that risk, and ignoring the risk is not what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation).
In order to find guilt on a charge of malicious arson, the prosecution must prove the defendant set fire to or burned (or assisted in burning) a structure, forest land or other property and they acted willfully and maliciously. Someone acts willfully when they perform the act willingly or on purpose. They act maliciously when they intentionally do a wrongful act or when they act with the unlawful intent to defraud, annoy or injure another person.
Assault & Battery
Assault & battery may be charged as misdemeanors or felony offenses depending on the severity of the crime and injuries, if any. Regardless of its classification, assault and/or battery are considered violent crimes that will remain on the individual’s criminal history permanently. A conviction for either may also make it difficult or outright impossible for the individual to work in professions that require a character of peacefulness or where public safety is at issue, including law enforcement, nursing, health care, and other fields.
Assault: is the attempt to cause bodily injury to another individual. It does not require actual contact. Aggravated assault involving the use of a deadly weapon may be charged as a felony. A deadly weapon may range from a fist or belt to a gun or knife.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury (GBI)
This type of assault requires all of the following:
(1) a purposeful act that would likely cause another person to feel a
(2) knowledge that performing the act would likely cause that
person to feel a physical impact;
(3) possession of the actual ability to successfully cause that other
person to feel a physical impact; AND
(4) the perpetrator used either a deadly weapon OR sufficient force
to cause great bodily injury.
The actual physical impact is not required to be found
guilty of assault with GBI.
An example of assault with GBI is the repeated punching and kicking of another person even without injuries.
Assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in California.
Use of a machine gun, rifle, or semi-automatic firearm in the course of an assault carry more severe state prison sentences, as does an assault with a deadly weapon where the victim is a peace officer.
Thorough investigation, certain factual inconsistencies, evidence of self-defense, amongst other facts and circumstances are examples of Ms. Azari’s diligent defense of her clients who have been accused of assault with a deadly weapon. The result therefore ranges from a not guilty verdict, to a dismissal of the charge, or in the alternative a disposition for a lesser charge.
Battery: is the actual contact and/or injury inflicted on another individual with the intent to cause bodily harm. It could be as hard as a punch or a slap, and it could be as light as a spit. Actual harm or injury need to not be proven.
Battery on a Peace Officer
A peace officer is broadly defined and may be anyone, including but not limited to custodial officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics, process servers, employees of a probation department, and/or doctors and nurses providing emergency medical care.
Often, a charge of battery against a peace officer is a misdemeanor. However, if the peace officer sustains injuries, the accused may be charged with a misdemeanor or a violent felony.
To prove guilt for this crime, the prosecution must show the following:
(1) an unlawful and willful contact with the peace officer that is done in a harmful or offensive
(2) the victim was a peace officer (at the time) and was performing the duties of a peace officer;
(3) the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was a peace officer who
was performing his or her duties; and
(4) the victim suffered an injury as a result.
This is the crime of putting someone in fear. In California, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A conviction for felony criminal threat is considered a “strike” offense under the California Three Strikes law.
It requires the following elements:
1) a threat to kill or physically harm someone;
2) that person is placed in a reasonable fear for his/her safety or the safety of his/her family;
3) the threat is specific and unequivocal; and
4) it is communicated verbally, in writing or via an electronic device (text or email are examples).
An inability to carry out the threat is not a defense. Likewise, the lack of intent to carry out the threat is not a defense.
Some examples are:
1) holding a gun to someone and threatening to shoot them;
2) texting your ex-husband and threatening to burn his girlfriend’s car
Ms. Azari has successfully defended her clients against charges of criminal threats by a showing that:
1) the threat was vague and not specific;
2) the conduct of the recipient indicates he/she was not in reasonable fear for her safety;
3) the recipient’s fear was fleeting/not lasting; and
4) the threat was a gesture and not communicated verbally, in writing or electronically.
In some cases, there is evidence of motive to fabricate the allegations of the threat and in those instances, the defense turns on the lack of credulity of the accuser as well as evidence of his/her wrongful motive to fabricate a threat.
Domestic violence is the use of physical violence, the threat of violence, or harmful psychological or emotional tactics against co-habitant, spouse, family member, or girlfriend/boyfriend. Same-sex domestic partners, spouses, and unmarried boyfriends and girlfriends are protected parties by California domestic violence laws.
There are various types of domestic violence that can occur amongst individuals. Some common types of unlawful conduct include:
Persistent unwanted phone calls (“nuisance” calls)
Verbal abuse, including cruelty, criticism, swearing, mocking, taunting, and name-calling
Financial abuse, including refusing to pay bills or buy necessities, withholding money, and not allowing the victim to obtain a job
Social abuse, including isolating the victim, eavesdropping on private conversations, violating privacy rights, and displaying overt jealousy
Physical assault, including hitting, pushing, slapping, kicking, shoving, biting, hair pulling, pinching, punching, and beating
Sexual abuse, including unwanted touching, forced acts of a sexual nature, and criticism of sexual abilities
Domestic violence can be a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the nature of the crime and the presence or absence of physical injuries to the witness/victim.
Ms. Azari has successfully obtained non-violent dispositions in such matters (e.g.; misdemeanor “disturbance of peace”). She has also obtained “not guilty” verdicts after a jury trial in similar matters wherein thorough investigation led to evidence of self-defense; a motive to fabricate allegations; and other evidence casting reasonable doubts on the prosecution’s evidence.
Temporary Restraining Orders (in Domestic Violence cases)
EPO vs TRO, both are CLETS orders
Categories of conduct are broader
Standard of Proof is lower
No jury trial; judge hearing
Sara represents petitioners who seek protection as well as defends her clients who are being accused of harassing or annoying conduct with or without any pending related DV charges
Temporary Restraining Orders (Civil Harassment)
Same as DV TROs except no relationship is required as between the parties.
Common example involves harassing or threatening conduct by a neighbor or co-worker
Likewise, SA has successfully petitioned and argued for the issuance of a Civil Harassment TRO (heard in a civil courtroom) as well as defending those of her clients who were alleged to have engaged in harassing, annoying or threatening conduct.
While homicide might be broadly defined as the killing of one individual by another, it is not always necessarily an act of malice or pre-meditated. Yet, it is often charged and filed as such. For example, when the killing of another is committed in self-defense, in order to prevent a violent crime from occurring, or by accident, the charge of homicide can often be mitigated to manslaughter.
Voluntary / Involuntary Manslaughter
Falling within the broader category of homicide, manslaughter is a legal term for the killing of another human being without premeditation or deliberation. Manslaughter is generally considered less severe than murder, and the punishment is typically substantially less than the life prison term or death penalty that are sentences associated with a conviction for 1st degree murder.
Manslaughter is often divided into two categories characterized by the perpetrator's state of mind:
Voluntary manslaughter: This type of homicide can be supported by evidence of provocation, lapse of judgment in the heat of passion, or another cause for diminished mental capacity or loss of self-control.
Involuntary manslaughter: This type of homicide is also known as criminal negligence. It is supported by evidence of recklessness without any intent to injure or kill the victim.
Murder is the intentional killing of another human being. In California, there are two types of murder:
First Degree Murder: a premeditated killing that was planned in advance. Felony-Murder, a murder committed during the course of a serious felony (robbery and kidnapping are the two most common felonies during which the victim is killed) can also qualify as first degree murder. Sentences associated with a conviction for first degree murder are life in prison with the possibility of parole; life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP); and where special circumstances are established, the death penalty.
Second Degree Murder: an intentional killing committed without premeditation and deliberation.
Homicide cases require extensive defense investigation and the use of reputable and knowledgeable investigators with prior experience as homicide detectives, experts such as a ballistic expert, DNA expert, and eye-witness expert, amongst others. Ms. Azari creates a defense team of attorneys and experts when defending a client against accusations of murder. This has been proven to be a key to success in successfully defending murder charges towards a reduction in the charge or a “not guilty” verdict after a jury trial.
To support a charge of attempted murder, the prosecution must prove:
the accused performed an act towards killing the victim that did not in fact result in that person’s death; and
the accused carried the act with malice aforethought (the specific intent to unlawfully kill the victim).
A common example of attempted murder occurs when one person shoots at another person or stabs another person but that person survives.
Ms. Azari will evaluate the evidence provided in these cases to determine whether they are sufficient to support the requisite state of mind. In certain instances, evidence of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs negates malice aforethought. If there is evidence of facts and circumstances that necessitated the accused to act in self-defense, then Ms. Azari will investigate and present that evidence in defense of an attempted murder charge.
Even the slightest movement of another person against their will can constitute kidnapping. A conviction for kidnapping carries a term of life in prison, and may at a minimum, add several years to the underlying sentence.
To be found guilty of kidnapping, the prosecution must prove that the accused:
moved the victim by using force or fear;
the victim did not willingly consent to the movement; and
the movement was of a substantial distance.
A common example of kidnapping occurs following a carjacking when the accused puts a gun to the driver’s head, orders them to sit in the passenger seat, and drives them to a different location.
Issues of identification and consent of the victim are common defenses to kidnapping. Ms. Azari will evaluate the specific allegations and evidence in each such case in order to present the most viable defense for her client.