Violent Crimes

Under California law, certain crimes are specifically designated as violent felonies. These crimes include crimes you would expect such as murder and armed robbery but also crimes such as kidnapping, sexual molestation of a child, and gang extortion. But crimes such as sexual battery and drive-by shootings (if no one is killed or injured) are not violent felonies under the statue. The violent felony statutory designation has significant implications.

California Penal code section 667.5, subdivision (c) lists 23 categories of crimes that are considered a violent felony in the state. Some of these categories include a broad range of crimes, so the actual number of violent felonies far exceeds 23. The “violent felony” designation is important not only for the stiff punishment these crimes carry but also because 1) each conviction for a violent felony counts as a strike under the three strikes law and 2) Proposition 57 (2017) gives felons serving time in prison an opportunity to be considered for early parole release if they are not serving time for a violent felony.

(California also designates certain crimes as “serious felonies.” The list of serious felonies is very long and some of these crimes overlap the violent crimes as enumerated under Penal Code section 667.5(c). Serious felonies also count as strikes under the three strikes law but are not always violent crimes, such as certain drug sales to a minor. Conviction of a crime that is designated a serious felony but not a violent felony does not preclude consideration for early parole release under Proposition 57.)

The assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney can make an important difference when facing a potential conviction for a violent felony. A crime designated as a violent felony is often only a matter of the circumstances under which the crime occurred. For example, assault is not enumerated under the violent felonies list but if the assault was committed with the intent to commit mayhem (disfigurement of another person), rape, or sexual molestation of a minor, it is a violent felony. Note that only the intent that is required. The prosecution will almost always charge to the maximum possible degree; it is your criminal defense attorney who will argue for a charge and/or conviction that does not carry the violent felony designation.

An example may further clarify this: The prosecution alleged that Mr. X, while holding a knife, assaulted Mr. Y, telling him, “I am going to cut your nose off.” Mr. X didn’t cut Mr. Y’s nose and in fact, didn’t cut Mr. Y with the knife at all. But the prosecution charged Mr. X with assault with the intent to commit mayhem. Mr. X’s violent crimes defense attorney negotiated a plea bargain with the prosecution where Mr. X pled to simple assault, a misdemeanor. The court subsequently sentenced Mr. X to three years’ probation. The consequences between the potential conviction of assault with intent to commit mayhem and simple assault is the difference between a potential prison sentence with a strike and no opportunity to apply for early release and misdemeanor probation that can be expunged once Mr. X successfully completes his term of probation.

Under Penal Code section 667.5(c), the following crimes are violent felonies: Murder, attempted murder, and voluntary manslaughter; mayhem; forced sex acts or sex acts with a minor or a dependent person; all felonies punishable by death or life in prison; most felonies that result in great bodily injury to a victim; robbery; arson; malicious detonation of destructive devices or explosives with intent or that causes the death, mayhem, or great bodily injury to another; assault with intent to commit a forced sex act on another or a sex act on a minor; assault with a firearm on a peace officer or firefighter; kidnapping; extortion or criminal threats done for the benefit of a street gang; carjacking; first degree burglary when another person (other than accomplice) was present; possession, use, or production of weapons of mass destruction.

Being convicted of a violent felony has serious and lasting consequences. Orange County violent crimes defense attorney William Weinberg has successfully defended hundreds of clients charged with a crime that has the violent felony designation. His goal is to get the charges dismissed when possible. But if not, he works every legal angle to get the charges reduced to a lesser included crime that is not included in the violent felony list under Penal Code section 667.5. Violent crimes comprise an array of crimes, all with a potential defense. Attorney Weinberg will use every tool in the defense attorney’s toolbox to fight the charges against you.

If You Have Been Accused of a Violent Crime, Call Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg for Immediate Help

Attorney Weinberg is believes every defendant is entitled to an excellent defense. When the stakes are high, the demand for an excellent defense is even greater. Attorney Weinberg promises to apply his 25+ years’ experience and skills as a criminal defense attorney to your case. He is available for a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case and advise you on your options. Contact him through this online form, or by emailing him at or by calling his Irvine office at (949) 474-8008.

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