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May 22, 2020

Why Hire an Oakland Criminal Lawyer to Help Defend Assault Charges?

If you’ve been arrested for assault in Alameda County, you may be asking yourself, “Why hire an Oakland criminal lawyer to help defend assault charges?” You may believe that you don’t need an attorney – that you can navigate the criminal justice system on your own. Nothing could be further from the truth. After looking at the wide range of assault charges in California, the numbers of arrests and convictions, and the resulting sentences, it becomes clear that you need an Oakland criminal lawyer by your side in order to achieve an acceptable outcome for your case.

Felony Assault Charges

According to the California Attorney General, in 2018, there were 176,866 reported violent crimes in California. Of those, 105,315 – close to 60 percent – were for aggravated assault. That corresponds to 264 incidents of aggravated assault for every 100,000 Californians. Of those reported assaults, 17 percent involved the use of a firearm. In 16 percent of aggravated assaults, a knife or other cutting instrument was used. Other dangerous weapons were used in 35 percent of assault incidents. The remaining 32 percent of aggravated assaults involved what the Attorney General terms “personal weapons,” such as punching fists, kicking feet, and so forth.

In California in 2018, arrests were made in 54 percent of reported aggravated assaults. Assault made up 80 percent of all arrests for violent offenses in 2018, and there were more than 90,000 felony arrests for assault. Three out of four people arrested for assault were men. Fully 43 percent of assault arrests were Latinx, while 29 percent were white and 20 percent were African American. One third were between the ages of 20 and 29, while 29 percent were between the ages of 30 and 39 and another 29 percent were 40 years of age or older.

Types of Felony Assault Crimes

There are literally dozens of felony-level assault offenses in California, including:

Assault with a Deadly Weapon: While a deadly weapon can be a gun, it can also be a variety of other weapons. For example, if Darryl stabs – or attempts to stab – George, Darryl can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. But less obvious “weapons” that can seriously harm or kill someone also count. If Darryl and George get into a fight in a bar and Darryl breaks a whiskey bottle and uses the sharp glass shards to slash George, Darryl can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. If George is a random passenger or drives a bus, taxi, light rail train, or limousine, a conviction for Darryl means more prison time. Similarly, if George is a school employee or a jail or prison custodial officer, the sentence increases.

Assault with a Firearm: This seems obvious, but it’s important to note that, if Darryl points a loaded gun at George or the gun discharges – even if George isn’t hit – Darryl can be charged with felony aggravated assault. There are additional provisions for using a semiautomatic gun, assault weapon, or machine gun, as well as provisions for assaulting people in specific roles. For example, if Darryl is convicted of using a firearm to assault George, and George is a firefighter or a police officer, Darryl faces increased prison time.

Assault with Chemicals: If Darryl throws acid, gasoline, or another chemical on George in order to try and injure or disfigure him, then Darryl can be tried for aggravated assault.

Assault with a Stun Gun: If Darryl uses a stun gun on George, that’s considered assault. If George is a firefighter or police officer, a conviction can mean an enhanced sentence. Assault with a stun gun can also be a secondary charge to another assault charge.

Great Bodily Injury: If Darryl attacks George with enough force to generate great bodily injury – such as a broken jaw, broken bones, or a gunshot wound – then Darryl can be charged with aggravated assault.

Sexual Assault: Rape is felonious sexual assault. In 2018, there were 15,500 reported incidents of rape or attempted rape in California. That same year, there were more than 2,500 felony arrests for rape.

Child Assault: If George is Darryl’s son and Darryl puts him in harm’s way or uses force that could result in great bodily injury, then Darryl can be charged with felonious child assault.

If Darryl is convicted of a felony assault crime, he could be incarcerated for 16 months, two years, or three years. If there are extenuating circumstances such as those outlined above, the sentence could be even stiffer.

Outcomes After a Felony Arrest

When contemplating hiring an Oakland criminal lawyer to help defend against assault charges, it’s crucial to be clearheaded and look at the numbers. Of those arrested on felony charges in California in 2018, only three percent were released by law enforcement. Eighteen percent of cases were rejected or resolved by the prosecution, and 12 percent of those arrested were acquitted or had their cases dismissed by the courts. Roughly two-thirds of those arrested were convicted. Of those who were convicted, 17 percent were sentenced to state prison, 6 percent were given probation, 48 percent were given probation with jail time, and 10 percent were sentenced to jail.

If you’ve been arrested for felony assault and are wondering, “Why hire an Oakland criminal lawyer to help defend assault charges?”, ask yourself this: Why are the cases of some of those accused of felony assault dismissed by the prosecution? Why are some of the cases dismissed? Why do some of those convicted receive probation, and why are others sentenced to jail or state prison? While each case is unique, it seems logical that whether or not the defendant has an experienced Oakland criminal attorney by their side is central to the outcome of an Alameda County assault case.

Misdemeanor Assault

Felony assault charges are just one piece of the puzzle. There are more misdemeanor assault charges than felony assault charges filed each year.

The Attorney General’s report cites 262,657 incidents of not-aggravated assault in 2018, the latest year for which statistics are available. Also known as “simple” assaults, these assaults are defined as those that don’t involve use of a weapon and that don’t result in serious injury. Over the course of 2018, more than 82,000 people were arrested for misdemeanor assault and battery in California. Of these, 72 percent were men. Latinx accounted for 41 percent of misdemeanor assault and battery arrests, while 32 percent of arrestees were white and 20 percent were African American. Thirty-one percent were between the ages of 20 and 29, 26 percent were between the ages of 30 and 39, and 29 percent were 40 years of age or older.

As with felony assault charges, misdemeanor charges run the gamut, and include:

Exhibiting a Deadly Weapon: If Darryl and George get in a scuffle and Darryl pulls out a knife, misdemeanor assault charges are on the table – even if Darryl never used the knife.

Exhibiting a Firearm: It is considered misdemeanor assault for Darryl to pull out even an unloaded handgun in a public place.

Discharging BB Guns: If Darryl and George are hanging out together in the backyard and Darryl fires his BB gun at a nearby squirrel but almost hits George, Darryl could be charged with misdemeanor assault.

Pointing a Laser at a Plane: If Darryl points a high-powered laser at a plane, he can be charged with misdemeanor assault.

Discharging a Firearm from a Highway: It is considered misdemeanor assault if Darryl fires a gun from a road or highway.

Misdemeanor convictions typically carry a maximum sentence of one year in county jail, but most are eligible for probation. Sometimes, probation carries certain conditions, as is the case with child endangerment. If Darryl is convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment and is granted probation, he is required to spend four years on probation and may be subject to a restraining order. He is also required to attend a child abuser’s treatment counseling program for at least a year. If he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the incident occurred, Darryl is required to remain drug- and alcohol-free, and to submit to random drug testing.

When Assault Charges are Wobblers

In California, many types of assault charges are “wobblers,” meaning that they can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors. Of the felony assault charges listed above, the following are wobblers:

  • Assault with a stun gun
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Great bodily injury
  • Child assault

There are a number of factors that can influence whether or not a crime is charged as a wobbler. If Darryl is facing a wobbler, the prosecutor can consider:

  • Darryl’s age
  • His prior criminal record
  • Whether or not Darryl is likely to continue to break the law
  • How cooperative Darryl has been with law enforcement
  • The severity of Darryl’s crime
  • How strong the evidence is

The X factor is the skill of Darryl’s Oakland criminal lawyer in persuading the prosecutor to reduce the charges. More on that below.

Darryl’s charges can be reduced from felony assault to misdemeanor assault at the time the district attorney files the charges against him, but they can also be reduced at other stages in the criminal justice process. A felony wobbler can tip to a misdemeanor at Darryl’s preliminary hearing or at the time of his sentencing. If Darryl is convicted of a felony but doesn’t serve time in state prison and receives a sentence of formal probation, he can file a petition to reduce the charges after he’s successfully completed felony probation.

The Role of an Oakland Criminal Lawyer

If Darryl is arrested for assault charges in Alameda County, his first call should be to an Oakland criminal lawyer. Darryl’s attorney’s skills can mean the difference between felony and misdemeanor charges, and the difference between a jail or prison sentence and probation. In other words, the right Oakland criminal lawyer can mean the difference between Darryl’s ability to keep his freedom, his job, and his family, or have his life and his future ruined while he spends time behind bars.

Darryl’s Alameda County criminal lawyer can start working on Darryl’s behalf from the moment he is arrested. The attorney can be by Darryl’s side, advising him as he’s questioned by the police. Before charges are filed, his Oakland criminal lawyer can leverage their knowledge of the Alameda County system and their contacts with prosecutors to gather relevant information and work to convince the district attorney to drop or reduce the charges. If Darryl opts not to hire an attorney, he is at a disadvantage – both because he might incriminate himself during questioning and because he doesn’t have insider knowledge about how the Alameda County criminal justice system works.

Darryl’s Oakland criminal lawyer understands that Alameda County prosecutors don’t have the capacity to try every case – or even most cases. According to the 2018 Attorney General’s report, the State of California employs only 4,100 prosecutors and 1,676 investigators. During that year, there were more than 302,000 felony arrests and 784,000 misdemeanor arrests. Prosecutors have a compelling incentive to resolve cases before they go to trial.

What does this mean for Darryl? His attorney can likely negotiate a plea agreement that both satisfies the prosecutor and provides Darryl with the best possible outcome for his case. For example, Darryl’s Oakland criminal attorney can convince the prosecutor to knock a wobbler felony charge down to a misdemeanor, or a misdemeanor down to an infraction. Because jails and prisons are overcrowded, an Oakland criminal attorney can convince the prosecutor to recommend probation over prison or jail.

The bottom line? Experienced Oakland criminal attorneys have a lot of bargaining power. Those who have been arrested for or charged with assault do not. It’s critical to hire an Oakland criminal lawyer to help defend assault charges because your freedom and your future are at stake.

If you or a loved one is facing assault charges in Alameda County, time is of the essence. Call Silver Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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