Hartman Law Office Crime Descriptions

ARSON

A crime of arson (Penal Code 451) occurs when one willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property. One who commits arson is also guilty of murder if another person dies as a result of the arson, even if the arsonist did not intend to kill. Although fire caused by accident or ordinary carelessness is not arson, a person may be guilty of arson if he causes a fire in reckless disregard of the consequences of his actions.

ASSAULT & ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON

An assault is any action likely result in an offensive, harmful, or unconsented to touching coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the touching. It is both a crime and a civil tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal or civil liability. Simple assault (Penal Code 240) is always a misdemeanor. However, assault likely to produce great bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code 245) is usually a felony but can be a misdemeaor. The most common defense to one of these charges is self-defense or defense of another.

AUTO THEFT, VEHICLE THEFT, GRAND THEFT AUTO

Auto Theft, Vehicle Theft, Grand Theft Auto (Vehicle Code 10851) occurs when someone takes or drives a vehicle without consent of the owner with the intent to deprive the owner of the vehicle either permanently or temporarily. Even if you intended to return the vehicle, you can still be convicted! Even if you were given the vehicle by the owner to borrow and you failed to return it on time, you can still be convicted! A conviction for this can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. The most common defense to such a charge is that you did not intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle because you had a good faith belief that you were entitled to possession of the vehicle.

BATTERY, SERIOUS BATTERY, BATTERY ON A PEACE OFFICER

Battery is when there is an unlawful and unconsented-to harmful or offensive touching. Simple battery (Penal Code 242) is always a misdemeanor. Battery resulting in serious bodily injury or battery upon a peace officer (Penal Code 243) is almost always a felony, and can sometimes be a strike conviction. The most common defense to battery is self-defense or defense of another.

BURGLARY

Burglary (Penal Code 459) occurs when someone enters into a building with the intent to commit either a felony or any theft crime therein, and it does not matter if the felony or theft crime was actually committed so long as the DA can prove the intention existed at the time of entry. First Degree burglary occurs when the building burglarized is an occupied dwelling, and a conviction for this is a strike offense. Second Degree burglary occurs when the burglarized building is an unoccupied residence or a commercial building such as a store, and a conviction for this is not a strike but can be a felony or a misdemeanor. The most common defense to burglary is that the prohibited intent did not exist at the time of entry into the building but was formed either after the entry or never even existed.

CARJACKING

Carjacking (Penal Code 215) is the felonious taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, or from the person or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle, against his or her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the motor vehicle of his or her possession, accomplished by means of force or fear. A conviction for carjacking is a strike and is always a felony.

CHILD ABUSE, CHILD ENDANGERMENT

Child abuse or child endangerment (Penal Code 273a) is the physical or emotional mistreatment of a child, or exposing the child to a harmful living environment or some other circumstances that are likely to lead to harm to the child. A conviction for this can be either a felony or misdemeanor, but leads to very serious consequences because many employers will not hire someone with such a conviction and many professional licenses cannot be issued to someone with such a conviction. Also, there is great potential for you to lose your parental rights for even being charged with such an offense.

CHILD MOLESTATION

Child molestation (Penal Code 288, among others) occurs when someone touches the sexual organs of a minor or causes the minor to touch the person's own sexual organs with the intent for sexual arousal or sexual gratification of either the adult or the minor. These charges are often very serious and bring very serious consequences. A conviction is a strike and will most certainly result in a prison sentence, possibly a life sentence depending on the circumstances, as well as having to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 for the rest of your life. A vigorous and aggressive defense is necessary from the very beginning to investigate any reason why the minor might have fabricated or embellished the incident, or if the minor's story was influenced by the police or child protective services agent feeding the minor more egregious details. Sometimes, these charges are brought because the mother of the alleged victim fed the story to the child in order to get revenge against the client for some personal reason. These charges are not impossible to beat, but it is very important to have a solid, aggressive, and experienced attorney to fight the case properly.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SPOUSAL ABUSE

Domestic violence (Penal Code 273.5 or Penal Code 243(e)(1)) is when a battery has occurred upon someone with whom you either have had in the past or currently have a dating relationship, have or currently do live together, or have a child in common with each other. A domestic violence conviction can be either a felony or misdemeanor, but a conviction always brings serious consequences because many employers will not hire someone with such a conviction and many professional licenses cannot be issued to someone with such a conviction. Also, there is great potential for you to lose your parental rights for even being charged with such an offense.

DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (DUI)

Driving Under the Influence (Vehicle Code 23152(a) and Vehicle Code 23152(b)) and Driving Under the Influence resulting in Injury (Vehicle Code 23153(a) and Vehicle Code 23153(b)) is one of the most common charges, partly because many police officers focus heavily on DUI arrests in order to receive special awards within their department and from organizations such as MADD. It is not impossible to beat a DUI, as many attorneys claim, because we can look into whether the traffic stop complied with your Fourth Amendment Rights and we can scrutinize the officer's "investigation" and often find mistakes from a rookie officer. One of the most serious consequences of a DUI conviction is loss of your privilege to drive, which in turn could lead to loss of employment! Also, there is a very real chance of actual jail time if you have a high blood alcohol content, if there was an accident, and if you have prior DUI convictions.

POSSESSION OF NARCOTICS & POSSESSION FOR SALES

Simple possession of narcotics (Health and Safety Code 11377 or Health and Safety Code 11350), possession of drugs for purposes of sales (Health and Safety Code 11378 or Health and Safety Code 11358), and transportation of drugs (Health and Safety Code 11379 or Health and Safety Code 11359) are serious matters, as these convictions can result in denial of employment and denial of education loans, which is why you need a serious criminal defense lawyer on your side. Many drug arrests occur when the police witness a drug transaction or search a person and find drugs on their person, their personal effects, or in their car. Many times these arrests are made by rookie officers who don't understand how to properly respect your Fourth Amendment Rights. Even more experienced officers that are very knowledgeable about the law and understand the parameters of what constitutes a legal search, they are often overzealous and may go beyond the bounds of what is constitutionally permissible in conducting a search. When evidence of drugs is obtained from an unlawful search, we work to have that evidence suppressed or even have the charges dropped or case against you dismissed.

Even where the police have witnessed a drug transaction, these transactions typically occur at night or in dark or secluded areas, making positive identification difficult. Did the police truly witness an illicit transaction, and did they identify you or mistake you for someone else? These are very real issues that should be explored and presented to the jury where applicable.

Even where a conviction is unavoidable, we may be able to help you secure the best possible outcome, including alternatives to incarceration, such as, drug treatment programs. We will also work to minimize the impact of any arrest or conviction on your record. If you have been arrested for a drug offense, don't despair, and don't give up without a fight.

ELDER ABUSE - ELDER THEFT

Elder abuse and theft from a dependent elder (Penal Code 368) can occur when the alleged victim is someone that is 65 or older, or is under the care-taking of another adult, and someone commits either physical violence or a theft-related crime against him or her. This is a very serious offense, and the courts and prosecutors often seek stiff prison sentences for these crimes.

EMBEZZLEMENT

Embezzlement (Penal Code 503) occurs when property has been given to someone simply to hold in the trust that the property will be held for the owner, but the holder uses the property for his or her own personal benefit. Embezzlement can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on how much value was alleged to have been taken. However, these cases can become very complicated when the allegation is that a company employee funneled money away from the company, because those cases involve hundreds or thousands of pages of documents and business records. One of the most common defenses is that the client had a good faith belief that the property was given for the defendant's ownership or use for his own purposes.

FALSE IMPRISONMENT

False imprisonment (Penal Code 236) is the deprivation of one's freedom of movement by force or threats of violence, without consent. Although a conviction for this is not a strike, it is often treated very harshly by the courts and DAs and typically results in stiff prison sentences.

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN A GANG

A charge of active participation in a criminal street gang (Penal Code 186.22(a)) is very serious. The courts, juries, and DAs are very prejudiced against someone simply alleged by police to have participated in a criminal street gang, and a conviction is always a felony, is a strike, and will most certainly result in prison time. However, the police often don't conduct very thorough investigations into these cases and simply rely on the hope that the courts, DAs, and juries will simply rubber stamp the conviction and send the person away. It is very important to have an attorney who is experienced and dedicated to attacking the police on their faulty investigations.

GANG ENHANCEMENT COMMITTING A FELONY FOR GANG RELATED PURPOSES

A charge of committing a felony for the purpose of benefitting a criminal street gang (Penal Code 186.22(b)) is often called the gang enhancement. It is not itself a separate crime, but instead imposes a much more serious penalty to the felony alleged to have been committed for the gang (in some cases requiring life in prison), and makes a non-strike felony into a strike. Needless to say, it is very serious. The courts, juries, and DAs are very prejudiced against someone simply alleged by police to have participated in a criminal street gang, and a conviction is always a felony, is a strike, and will most certainly result in prison time. However, the police often don't conduct very thorough investigations into these cases and simply rely on the hope that the courts, DAs, and juries will simply rubber stamp the conviction and send the person away. It is very important to have an attorney who is experienced and dedicated to attacking the police on their faulty investigations.

KIDNAPPING

Kidnapping (Penal Code 206) occurs when someone forces another person to move, no matter how far, against their will by either violence or threats of violence. A conviction for kidnapping is a strike offense, is always a felony, and depending on the reason for the kidnapping could result in a sentence of life in prison.

LARCENY - THEFT

Larceny, also known as theft, can occur in a variety of ways. Petty theft (Penal Code 484) is the taking of another's property without consent, and the value is less than $950. Petty theft is always a misdemeanor. Grand theft (Penal Code 487) is the taking of another's property without consent, and the value exceeds $950 or if the property taken is a firearm or certain items of produce regardless of the value. Grand theft can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the value or the type of property taken. Grand theft of a firearm is a strike. The most common defense to theft is that the client had a good faith belief to entitlement to take the property.

MANSLAUGHTER

Manslaughter (Penal Code 192) occurs when one person kills another but without intent to kill (involuntary manslaughter) or with the intent to kill but under such sufficient provocation or heat of passion that the homicide is less culpable than murder (voluntary manslaughter). It goes without saying that a conviction for this is very serious, even if only charged with misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, and if convicted of felony manslaughter it is a strike.

MURDER

Murder (Penal Code 187) is the unlawful killing of another, with malice aforethought, and can be murder in the first degree or murder in the second degree, depending on the circumstances. A conviction for murder will almost certainly result in a sentence of life in prison, and is a strike.

PENAL CODE SECTION 290

Penal Code section 290 requires mandatory registration as a sex offender for persons convicted of the sex offenses listed in that section. Even if the offense is not listed in section 290, the person may be ordered by a court to register as a sex offender if the criminal offense committed was sexually motivated. Section 290 applies automatically to the enumerated offenses, and imposes on each person convicted a lifelong obligation to register. The registrant must appear in person to register with the police department of the city in which he or she resides, or with the sheriff's department if he or she resides in an unincorporated area or city which has no police department. The person has five working days to register after release from custody or on probation, or after coming into, or changing his or her residence within, any city or county. A charge for failure to register under Penal Code 290 often results in a prison sentence, because the courts and DAs see it as another opportunity to send a convicted sex offender back to prison. If charged with failure to register, DO NOT treat it lightly simply because you forgot to register,it is a big deal and you must be prepared to defend against it.

PERJURY

Perjury (Penal Code 118) is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing. This charge is often brought in connection with welfare fraud cases, because when receiving welfare you are signing under penalty of perjury that all information provided is truthful and accurate. A conviction for perjury is always a felony.

RAPE

Rape (Penal Code 261) occurs when someone engages in sexual activity with another person without their consent, either against their will by force or fear, by tricking the person into consenting under false pretenses, or by preventing the person from providing consent due to intoxication or lack of consciousness. These charges are often very serious and bring very serious consequences. A conviction is a strike and will most certainly result in a prison sentence, possibly a life sentence depending on the circumstances, as well as having to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 for the rest of your life. A vigorous and aggressive defense is necessary from the very beginning to investigate any reason why the alleged victim might have fabricated or embellished the incident, or if the allegation was influenced by the police feeding the alleged victim more egregious details. Sometimes, these charges are brought because the alleged victim has some desire to get revenge against the client for some personal reason. These charges are not impossible to beat, but it is very important to have a solid, aggressive, and experienced attorney to fight the case properly from the beginning. The most common defense is that the client had an honest belief that the sexual activity was consented to.

RECEIVING STOLEN PROPERTY

A charge of receiving stolen property (Penal Code 496) occurs when someone takes possession of property knowing it to have been stolen from the true owner and with the intent to deprive the true owner of the property. It can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. The most common defense is that the client did not know the property had been obtained from the true owner by theft, or intended to return the property to the true owner or the police.

ROBBERY

Robbery (Penal Code 211) is the taking of one's personal property by force, fear, or threat of force and from the person's immediate presence. A conviction for robbery is always a felony and is a strike, and almost always results in a prison sentence. Robbery can occur even if one is simply shoplifting from a store and uses force or fear to escape from the store employees with the property. Three of the most common defenses to robbery is that the client had a good faith belief to entitlement to the property and was therefore exercising his right to recover his own property, if the property taken was not in the owner's immediate presence, or if the property was abandoned before the force or fear was used to escape.

SEXUAL BATTERY

Sexual battery (Penal Code 243.4) is unconsented-to harmful or offensive touching of another's "intimate parts" for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification. A conviction of sexual battery can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, but perhaps the most serious consequence is lifetime registration as a sex offender under Penal Code 290. The most common defense is that the client had an honest belief that the touching was consented to.

SHOPLIFTING

Shoplifting (Penal Code 490.5) is the theft of property from a merchant. Shoplifting is usually a misdemeanor, but could be an infraction at the DA's discretion if the property is less than $50 or could be a felony if the value of the property is over $950 or if the client has a record of multiple theft related convictions. The most common defense is a good faith belief in the client being entitled to take the property.

STALKING

Stalking (Penal Code 646.9) occurs when someone willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family. These most often occur in connection with domestic violence charges and can result in very serious consequences. A conviction of stalking can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.

VIOLATION OF PROTECTIVE ORDER

A person commits the offense of violation of an order of protective order (Penal Code 166) by willfully contacting or attempting to contact a protected person with knowledge of the protective order's existence. Even if the protected person contacts you or asks you to engage in communication, if you have been ordered to not have any contact or communication then you are still in violation! The only way you can have contact with the protected person is if that person goes to court and obtains a dismissal of the protective order, or if the protective order permits peaceful communication between the two of you. A violation of a protective order can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.

WITNESS INTIMIDATION

Witness intimidation (Penal Code 136.1) occurs when someone uses violence or threats of violence with the intent to dissuade a witness to a crime or other judicial proceeding from reporting an incident to a peace officer or from testifying in court. Witness intimidation is a very serious offense, can be a felony or a misdemeanor, and if convicted as a felony is a strike.