Crimes Against Persons: List of Felony Charges in California
Broadly speaking, common felony charges in California fall into two categories: crimes against persons and crimes against property. Before examining a list of felony charges in California pertaining to crimes against persons, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at felonies in the context of other types of criminal offenses. In the California Penal Code, crimes are divided into three categories: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Felonies are the most serious crimes, and infractions are the least serious. Misdemeanors fall in the middle.
While these three categories of offenses appear separate and straightforward, some crimes are considered wobblers. This means that, depending on the circumstances of the crime and the prior convictions of the accused, it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. In the case of wobblers, an experienced Oakland criminal defense attorney can use their knowledge of the Alameda County court system to negotiate with prosecutors to keep felony charges at bay.
List of Felony Charges in California Pertaining to Crimes Against Persons
A list of felony charges in California includes these relatively familiar crimes against persons:
Robbery: Robbery involves literally stealing something from another person. This is as opposed to burglary, which involves stealing something from a building. Robbery in the first degree involves stealing from someone involved in transportation, such as a taxi driver or bus driver, or stealing from someone using an ATM machine. A first-degree robbery conviction can mean a prison term of three, four, or six years. A second-degree robbery conviction, such as for a purse-snatching, is punishable by a two-, three-, or five-year prison sentence.
Assault and Battery: In California, assault and battery are two different crimes. Assault is attempting to hurt someone else. Battery is actually hurting someone else. Assault and battery charges are typically misdemeanors, but there are a few exceptions where the crime is considered a wobbler. Battery committed against a firefighter, EMT, lifeguard, process server, animal control officer, prison guard, or police officer is a wobbler. The same holds true for battery committed on public transportation, such as against taxi drivers or passengers, bus drivers or passengers, and BART operators or passengers. If battery is prosecuted as a felony and the accused is convicted, they can serve 16 months, or two or three years in prison. If battery results in serious bodily injury, a felony conviction can lead to two, three, or four years in prison.
Sexual battery is a related felony in California law, and in some instances is also a wobbler. Sexually touching someone while that person is restrained can be charged as felony sexual battery, as can unwanted sexual touching of someone who is institutionalized, medically incapacitated, or disabled. A felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of two, three, or four years, along with a fine of up to $10,000.
Like some battery crimes, some assault crimes are wobblers. Throwing acid, gas, or caustic chemicals at someone else can result in a felony conviction and a prison sentence of two, three, or four years. The same is true for using a stun gun on a police officer or assaulting another person with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.
Other assault crimes are straight-up felonies, such as an assault with a machine gun or a semiautomatic gun, or assault with any firearm against a police officer or firefighter. Depending on the weapon used and who it was used against, a conviction can carry a prison sentence of four to twelve years.
If you’ve been charged with felony assault or battery in Oakland, a skilled Alameda County criminal defense lawyer will be your advocate. They can work to convince prosecutors to lessen the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. If your case goes to trial, they can mount a rigorous defense that will go far to sow doubt in the minds of jurors. If you plead to a lesser offense or are convicted at trial, your Oakland criminal defense attorney can advocate on your behalf for felony probation or minimal prison time.
Homicide: More commonly known as murder, homicide is the killing of another human being. A felony charge of first-degree murder can be brought when the killing is caused by an explosion, a weapon of mass destruction, armor-penetrating ammunition, poison, or torture. If the accused has killed someone during the commission of another crime, such as rape, carjacking, arson, burglary, robbery, or kidnapping, then that is also considered first-degree murder. In addition, all killings of police officers are considered first-degree murder, regardless of the circumstances. The punishment for a first-degree murder conviction is either death, a prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole, or a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
Murder that occurs under other circumstances is considered second-degree murder, and is also charged as a felony in California. A second-degree murder conviction carries a prison sentence of 15 years to life. Second-degree murder of certain categories of peace officers is punishable by 25 years to life in prison, or by life without the possibility of parole if the convicted person intended to kill the police officer or if they used a gun or a deadly weapon. If the person convicted has a prior offense for first- or second-degree murder, the punishment for second-degree murder is either life without the possibility of parole or 15 years to life in state prison. That prior conviction can mean a death sentence or life without the possibility of parole for a subsequent first-degree murder charge.
Another category of homicide is manslaughter. Under California law, there are different kinds of manslaughter, including voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. Voluntary manslaughter typically happens when there is a fight and someone is killed. A voluntary manslaughter conviction comes with a 3-, 6-, or 11-year prison term. Involuntary manslaughter is when the death occurs during a misdemeanor or when recklessness is involved. Vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler, and can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. A conviction of involuntary manslaughter or felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence carries a two-, three-, or four-year prison sentence. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is its own category of crime. If gross negligence is involved, then it is usually charged as a felony. In the absence of gross negligence, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a wobbler. A felony conviction of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can bring a 4-, 6-, or 10-year term in prison. A prior conviction of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can mean prosecution for first-degree murder.
A list of felony charges in California includes a range of sexual crimes, including:
Unlawful Sexual Intercourse: Under California law, unlawful sexual intercourse is defined as being between a minor under 18 and an adult over 18. If the minor is more than three years younger than the adult, or if the adult is 21 or older and the minor is under 16, the crime is a wobbler. A felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of two, three, or four years.
Rape: Forced sexual intercourse can be charged as a felony, and a conviction can bring a prison term of three, six, or eight years. If the victim is under 14 years of age, the maximum sentence is 13 years, and if the victim is a minor 14 years old or older, the maximum sentence is 11 years.
Pimping and Pandering: Defined as receiving financial support from another person’s prostitution or soliciting for a prostitute, pimping is charged as a felony and can result in three, four, or six years in prison – and up to eight years if the prostitute is under the age of 16. The same penalties hold for pandering, which is defined as procuring a prostitute or encouraging someone to be a prostitute.
Child Molestation: California law enumerates a number of crimes that fall under the umbrella of lewd acts on a child. These acts include touching a child’s genitalia (clothed or unclothed), urging the child to touch the adult, or causing the child to touch themself for sexual purposes. The penalties vary according to the age of the child and other factors, such as whether or not force was used and whether or not the child experienced bodily harm. Virtually all lewd acts on children under 14 years of age are charged as felonies, and penalties include substantial prison time – from three years to life – fines up to $10,000, and mandatory sex offender registration.
Having to register as a sex offender is arguably as bad as a prison sentence. An experienced Oakland defense attorney can negotiate a plea bargain to a lesser offense that doesn’t mandate being listed in the sex offender registry. Alternately they can devise a defense that can avoid a conviction altogether, such as arguing that the child is mistaken or is lying or that the touching was accidental.
List of Felony Charges in California: Less Common Felonies
Less common felonies involving crimes against persons include:
Mayhem: Felony mayhem can be charged when one person disables or disfigures another person, and a conviction can result in a prison term of two, four, or eight years. Aggravated mayhem is charged for intentionally causing the disability or disfigurement, and a conviction can lead to life without the possibility of parole. Although it’s a separate crime, torture also falls under the category of mayhem; a conviction carries a life sentence.
Kidnapping: In California, kidnapping encompasses more than forcefully abducting someone and holding them for ransom. It also includes enticing someone with lies in order to, for example, participate in sex trafficking. Kidnapping can also be charged when someone engages in carjacking and drives off with a person who was already in the car.
The penalties for kidnapping are severe and depend upon the circumstances of the crime. A straight kidnapping conviction can mean a three-, five-, or eight-year prison term. If the victim is less than 14 years old, that prison term increases to five, eight, or 11 years. If the kidnapping was for ransom and the person kidnapped was harmed, then a conviction can mean life without the possibility of parole. If the person was not harmed, then the sentence can be life with possibility of parole. The same penalty – life with the possibility of parole – holds true for a kidnapping conviction in conjunction with a carjacking.
Taking Hostages: If someone uses another person as a shield, they can be convicted of taking hostages, a felony that carries a three-, five-, or eight-year prison term.
Human Trafficking: In California, falsely imprisoning another person in order to obtain labor or services is a serious crime. Depending on the age of the victim and other circumstances, a conviction can result in a prison sentence between five years and life, along with a fine of up to $500,000.
Penalties for Crimes in California
Under the California penal code, the penalty for a felony can be a death sentence, a state prison sentence, or a county jail sentence. Generally speaking, unless a crime has a specific punishment dictated by law, a felony is punishable by 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison. However, felony sentences can also be served in county jail if the sentence doesn’t exceed 364 days.
In contrast, a misdemeanor is punishable by probation, a fine, and/or time in county jail. Unless the law assigns a specific penalty to a given misdemeanor, a misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in county jail, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. An infraction is an entirely different animal, in that someone found guilty of an infraction cannot be imprisoned, nor are they entitled to a trial. Except in cases where a greater punishment is outlined in the law, an infraction carries a maximum penalty of a $250 fine.
While the penalties for crimes in California seem very black and white, the truth is that there are a lot of gray areas. Prosecutors have considerable discretion in the types of charges they bring. For example, if you are charged with a felony in Alameda County, your Oakland criminal defense attorney may be able to work with a district attorney to get the charges dropped to a misdemeanor. Alternately, it may be possible to negotiate a plea agreement for a lesser crime. Similarly, courts often have discretion in sentencing. That might mean, for example, that your Alameda County criminal defense lawyer can argue for a reduced sentence, or for probation and community service in lieu of prison time or a jail sentence.
When it comes to crimes against persons, there’s a long list of felony charges in California. It’s critical to remember that, should you be charged with a felony in Alameda County, your first call should be to a skilled Oakland criminal defense attorney.