A violent crime is broadly defined as a crime in which one person inflicts, or threatens to inflict, bodily harm upon someone else. Both state and federal laws penalize different categories of violent crimes.
While a violent crime under state law may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, all violent crimes under federal law are felony offenses. For instance, federal terrorism is a felony while a criminal/terrorist threat under state law can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on severity.
If you have been charged with a violent offense under state or federal law, please contact the Law Office of Sara Azari for a free consultation.
Commonly charged violent crimes in California are:
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 charges may be filed as misdemeanors or felony offenses depending on the severity of the crime and alleged injuries..
Assault: is the attempt to cause bodily injury to another individual. It does not require actual contact or injuries. 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 car, gun or knife.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury (GBI) requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that:
(1) a purposeful act that would likely cause the victim to feel a
(2) knowledge that the act would likely cause the victim to feel a physical impact;
(3) possession of the actual ability to successfully cause the victim to feel a physical impact; AND
(4) the perpetrator used either a deadly weapon OR sufficient force
to cause great bodily injury.
An example of ADW with GBI is the repeated punching and kicking of another person even without injuries.
Assault with a deadly weapon (ADW) can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in California.
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, or 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.
Under California law, Criminal Threats 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.
The crime 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) the threat 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 of Criminal Threat are:
1) holding a gun to someone and threatening to shoot them;
2) texting an ex-husband and threatening to burn his girlfriend’s car
Possible defenses include:
1) the threat was vague and not specific;
2) the response or behavior of the accuser indicates he/she was not in reasonable fear for his/her safety;
3) the accuser'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 a co-habitant, spouse, family member, or girlfriend/boyfriend. Same-sex domestic partners, spouses, and unmarried boyfriends and girlfriends are protected parties under California domestic violence laws.
Some common instances of unlawful conduct leading to domestic violence charges include:
Physical assault, including hitting, pushing, slapping, kicking, shoving, biting, hair pulling, pinching, punching, and beating
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
Domestic violence can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the nature of the crime and the presence or absence of physical injuries to the witness/victim.
Defenses to domestic violence mutual combat, self-defense, a motive to fabricate allegations; and other evidence casting reasonable doubts on the prosecution’s evidence.
A conviction for domestic violence carries jail and a probationary period, fees and fines, a stay-away order protecting the accuser, completion of a year-long series of domestic violence classes, and other terms and conditions depending on the nature of the charge and underlying allegations.
Homicide is the killing of one individual by another. There are two categories of homicide under California law: 1. Murder and 2. Manslaughter
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 (killing with malice) committed without premeditation and deliberation.
Voluntary / Involuntary Manslaughter
Manslaughter is a lesser homicide than murder and is divided into two categories categories characterized by the perpetrator's state of mind:
Voluntary manslaughter: homicide 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: homicide also known as criminal negligence. It is supported by evidence of recklessness without any intent to injure or kill the victim.
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 the accused intentionally shoots at a person with but that person survives.
Under California law, even the slightest movement of another person against their will can constitute kidnapping. A conviction for kidnapping carries a term of life in prison.
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 in the course of 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. "Substantial distance" is defined broadly and need not be substantial.
Common defenses to the crime of Kidnapping include Issues of identification and consent of the accuser
Under federal law, the charge of Terrorism is one of the most serious. A conviction for terrorism involves a life sentence and potentially the death penalty. Terrorism is not limited to overseas groups. Under the increasingly broad terrorism laws, the government can bring attempted terrorism charges, even when no harm was sustained.
Terrorism charges usually involve allegations of a violent or dangerous activity, combined with the intent to intimidate or coerce the public or government. Under federal law, the terrorist act or attempted act could include:
destruction of an aircraft
nuclear or biological weapons threats
government official kidnapping
arson or bombing property
use of explosives
attacking a federal facility
conspiracy to murder, kidnap, or maim
take a hostage
attacks on trains or mass transit
weapons of mass destruction
providing material support to terrorist organizations
helping finance terrorist activity
bombing public places
assaulting a member of a flight crew
destroying a gas pipeline
and other criminal violations
Terrorism & COVID-19
The Department of Justice has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by opening the way for the transmission of the virus to be considered an act of terrorism, and who intentionally spread the novel coronavirus can be charged with terrorism. The intentional spreading of the virus could include malicious hoaxes to threats targeting specific individuals or the general public.
The government defines the corona virus as a “biological agent” under the terrorism laws (akin to anthrax and other similar agents). In turn the intentional transmission of the virus will be charged as the crime of terrorism. is exponentially dangerous and will expectedly result in the overreaching and overcharging of a highly serious charge for a virus that we can catch and carry and know little about.
If you have been charged with a federal terrorism, please contact the Law Office of Sara Azari for a consultation.