VISTA Violent Crimes Attorney:
Defense of Assault, Battery, Manslaughter & Homicide
I am Vista and San Diego violent crimes attorney Peter M. Liss, and I can help you. I have personally defended hundreds of individuals who have been arrested and charged with:
and other related crimes. I can also help you if you are facing a potential “third strike” under the three-strikes law. If you need a when you need a top criminal defense because you are facing these types of accusations, please call me today. You will receive top representation for a reasonable fee.
What is a Violent Crime in California?
Generally speaking, a violent crime is any crime that involves some type of force or the threat of force. That being said, California state has a specific list of crimes that are considered “violent offenses,” meaning that when charged as a felony, they are subject to the state’s three strikes law. If you are convicted of a felony violent crime, it is a strike whether or not you go to jail or prison. If you do get sent to prison, you will be required to serve 85% of the sentence before being eligible for parole.
Enhancements Related to the Use of Force
In some cases though, the use of force determines which charge is filed. A good example is when the prosecutor decides whether a crime should be charged as a standard theft or a robbery. If the suspect knocked the victim over, it is up to the prosecutor to determine whether or not this is enough force to justify the much more serious robbery charge. In cases like this a San Diego violent crime lawyer may be able to show that because minimal force was used, the lesser charge should be filed.
Some of the Most Common Violent Crimes
In general, violent crimes carry stiff penalties in California and require a lawyer experienced in defending serious offenses like these. That being said, there are many different violent crimes in California and each one carries different penalties and will require a different method of defense. These are some of the most commonly charged types of violent offenses in San Diego County:
About Assault & Battery
These are the most commonly charged violent crimes in San Diego. While often confused with one another, assault and battery are two distinct offenses. Battery means intentionally using force or violence on another person without his/her consent. Assault is basically the threat or attempted use of force paired with the ability to cause injury.
Battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending mostly on how serious any resulting injuries were. If “great bodily injury” is claimed, battery becomes a strike under the three strikes law. Penalties may include jail, prison time, fines, probation or parole, and other penalties.
Guns Laws & Other Weapon Offenses
Commonly violated gun laws in California include having a concealed firearm, unlawfully discharging a firearm, brandishing a firearm, carrying an unlicensed firearm, unlawful selling of a firearm, carrying guns and certain drugs at the same time, improper storing of a firearm and other offenses.
When it comes to what weapons are illegal to possess in California, state law prohibits the possession of switchblades, assault weapons, brass knuckles, most concealed weapons and more. Additionally, the National Firearms Act prohibits possession or use of a machine gun or silencer.
Similarly, some people are subject to additional weapons restrictions. For example, those who have been convicted of any felony, as well as misdemeanor gang crimes, domestic violence or hate crimes, cannot possess firearms; and those convicted of any felonies cannot possess stun guns or pepper spray.
Penalties for violating weapons laws may include jail or prison, fines, loss of the right to own a deadly weapon, and other penalties. Additionally, using a firearm while committing certain crimes can add 10, 20 or even add 25 years to life to the penalty, depending on whether the gun was fired or if anyone was injured or killed.
Gang and Hate Crime Enhancements
Both gang crimes and hate crimes are similar in that they are not actual criminal charges in California, but are “enhancements” to other charges, meaning you cannot be found guilty of these accusations unless you are first convicted of another underlying charge. In the case of gang crimes, the prosecution must prove that you committed a crime related to some type gang activity. You do not need to be a gang member or be listed on the gang registry to face these enhancements -simply committing a crime to help a gang or in an effort to join a gang is enough.
Hate crime enhancements may be added to a charge if prosecutors believe you targeted the victim based on his or her race, ethnicity, origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. It does not matter whether or not the victim was a minority; if anyone attacks another person based on any of those protected characteristics, they can face hate crime charges.
For either enhancement, those charged with a misdemeanor will instead be convicted of a felony. In cases where the crime was already a felony, those convicted of a gang crime will have 4 years added to their sentence and those convicted of a hate crime will have 3 years added to their sentence. For particularly serious crimes such as drive-by shootings or murders, gang crime laws allow for an extra 10 years will be added to the sentence rather than the standard four. Additionally, those convicted of a gang-related felony will also have a strike added to their record.
It is worth mentioning that someone could face both gang crime and hate crime enhancements if the prosecution believed a person acting on behalf of a gang targeted someone based on one of the protected characteristics. For example, if a man committed felony battery on a Jewish person for the purposes of joining a white power gang, he could face both enhancements, which could add seven years and a strike to any other penalties he was sentenced to.
Murder, Manslaughter, & Vehicular Manslaughter
Murder is the unlawful, unjustified, intentional killing of a human being. Manslaughter is an unlawful killing of a human being without intent to kill. Vehicular homicide — also called vehicular manslaughter — means unlawfully killing another person with a vehicle without intent to kill. Attempted murder refers to an unsuccessful attempt to unlawfully and intentionally take someone’s life.
These crimes are legally complex with potentially severe penalties. Murder is punishable by life in prison; specifically, 15 years to life for 2nd degree murder and 25 years to life for 1st degree murder. 1st degree murder requires premeditation and deliberation. If a “special circumstance” crime is committed during the course of the murder, the penalty is life without parole or the death penalty. In this context, special circumstances include:
- financial gain
- a previous murder conviction on your record
- escaping arrest
- murder of a witness or law enforcement officer
- deaths that occur during the commission of a felony
- the use of poison or a bomb
- lying in wait
- drive-by shooting
- murders performed as part of a hate crime or gang crime
Manslaughter or attempted murder may be punished with a prison sentence or probation.
It is worth mentioning that while assisted suicide is legal in California, the aid can only come from a licensed physician and the patient must both be terminally ill and not suffer from diminished mental capabilities. If you killed someone who wanted to die, even if they begged you to do so, and it falls outside the very limited scope of legal assisted suicide, you could face murder charges.
What to do When Facing Violent Crimes Charges
If you have been charged with a violent crime of any type, you may understandably be scared of the potential consequences. But it’s important to remember that you are not guilty until you have been convicted and even those who are convicted will not necessarily face the maximum penalties for these offenses. In fact, for all of these crimes, alternative sentences may be given in certain cases.
Because the potential penalties are so severe, it is important to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to obtain the best results under the particular facts and law of your case. Your San Diego violent crime attorney’s knowledge of defenses, sentencing guidelines, and alternative sentencing options will be vital to obtaining the best outcome for your specific circumstances.
The Best Defenses to Violent Crimes Charges
There are many different defenses to these criminal charges and not every defense will apply to every situation, though in some cases, your attorney may choose to use multiple defenses. Never attempt to mount any defense without first speaking to your defense attorney. Also remember that police have all kinds of tricks they use to get people to confess or otherwise say things that can later be used against them, so you should never speak to any law enforcement officer without your criminal defense attorney present.
While sometimes the best option is agree to a plea bargain that will minimize the charges or sentencing you may face, other times it’s better to fight the accusations altogether. Some common defenses used in these types of cases include:
You Were Acting in Self Defense
This is one of the most effective defenses in violent crimes cases because it fully shields you. That being said, to use this defense, you must show that you or someone else was in immediate danger and that you used no more force than necessary to stop the danger. If you were not actually in imminent danger and killed someone or if you used deadly force when not necessary, you may be able to use what’s known as imperfect self defense to argue that you should face manslaughter rather than murder charges. You can also use force to protect your property, but this defense does not work in cases where deadly force was used.
Challenging the Evidence
While shows like CSI may have convinced the public otherwise, there are many serious issues with forensic science. In fact, some studies show that blood splatter analysis may be complete junk science. Similarly, just because an eyewitness identified you doesn’t mean you are guilty as multiple studies have shown that eyewitness accounts can be highly unreliable.
Law Enforcement Errors or Misbehavior
If you were tricked into confessing after police denied you of your right to see an attorney or if your home was searched without a valid warrant, your attorney may be able to prohibit the resulting evidence from being used against you. In cases of grave misconduct or where there is too little remaining evidence to secure a conviction, the case may be dropped altogether.
An Alibi Backs Your Story
If someone has accused you of a crime, but you have a reliable alibi proving you could not have been at the crime scene during the time the crime was committed, this may be a critical piece of evidence showing your innocence.
The Incident Was a Result of an Accident
Most (though not all) violent crimes require the defendant to have acted with intent. So, for example, if you were playing baseball and someone leaned in to tell you something right as you swung the bat, you couldn’t be charged with battery no matter how badly he or she was injured.
You Were Acting Under Duress
If someone forced you to commit a crime by threatening your life or someone else’s, you can argue that you had no choice. This defense cannot be used in homicide cases though, as it is not considered valid to trade one life for another.
You Were Unaware You Were Breaking the Law
Again, this defense does not apply to all crimes, but some laws can only be broken if you were willingly breaking the law. A good example is if you were accused of possessing an illegal weapon. Even if you had an assault rifle with a silencer in your car, if your lawyer can reasonably argue that you did not know it was there, for example, you were able to show that someone put it there without your knowledge, you are not guilty.
A Parent’s Right to Discipline
This defense is only useful in cases involving alleged child abuse and even then, can only be used where it can be argued that the parent was using reasonable discipline, which excludes any cases where the parent punched, kicked, choked or caused a traumatic injury to the child. That being said, you may be able to argue that you were using no more force than necessary to discipline your child.
As Your San Diego Violent Crimes Attorney, I Can Help You
As your lawyer I will not only represent you in and out of court, but also do whatever I can to make the process as unintimidating as possible. I will work to help you by:
- 1 Updating you on your case and advising you about the best actions to take throughout the process
- 2 Arguing for lower bail or for you to be released on your own recognizance
- 3 Making appropriate court motions. For weapons charges, this may include a “motion to suppress evidence” if a weapon was found as a result of other illegal search and seizure. A successful motion to suppress may result in some or all of the charges being dismissed
- 4 Questioning police and witnesses involved with your case
- 5 Collecting evidence that can support your defense
- 6 Hiring forensic experts to challenge the prosecution’s evidence
- 7 Evaluating and presenting the right legal defense for your specific case
- 8 Seeking a reduction of charges whenever possible
- 9 Representing you at trial or in a plea bargain
- 10 Working to ensure you receive the minimum possible sentence. This could involve securing an alternative sentence such as probation, house arrest or work furlough so you can serve your time outside of prison or jail.
Experience and Knowledge in My Field
I pride myself on offering all of my clients top quality representation for an affordable price. That means taking advantage of my 35 years experience as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in my area to defend clients who have been accused of all types of violent crimes in San Diego County, including assault, battery, weapons violations, murder, manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter.
Personalized Service Every Step of the Way
When you work with me, I guarantee I will be available every day, every hour thanks to my 24-hour-a-day, live answering service. I consider all calls and emails to my law firm urgent and will always respond promptly and courteously. I personally handle every case that comes through my door from start to finish and offer a free consultation to allow clients to ask me questions and learn more about my qualifications before making a decision on whether they want to hire me.
Two Convenient Locations
My Vista office is located just across the street from the North County San Diego courthouse and jail and free parking is available. My San Diego office is just off the I-5 in Carmel Valley. My rates are affordable and I accept all major credit cards.
If you or a loved one has been accused of any kind of violent crime, please call my offices as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.