April 28, 2009

Sex Offenses in California - Defined

Sexual battery, sexual assault, and rape are often used to describe a variety of sex crimes. Because these are “legal” terms, their actual definitions are frequently misinterpreted. Unfortunately, celebrity tabloids, news sources and other media just add to the confusion. Below is a brief description of these commonly used terms.

Sexual battery (Penal Code 243.4), in California, takes place when someone touches another’s “intimate part” (a female’s breast or anyone’s buttocks, anus, groin, or sexual organ) without consent and for a sexual purpose. Depending on the circumstances, the crime may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

California looks at “sexual assault” as sort of a catchall phrase that includes any type of offensive sexual contact. It can refer to sexual battery, rape, sodomy, penetration with a foreign object, or other sexual acts that are done against one’s will or without one’s consent. Sexual assault is not a crime in-and-of itself, but rather is a term used to describe a wide variety of California sex offenses.

Rape is always a felony offense in California and is defined under California Penal Code section 261 as nonconsensual sexual intercourse. This California sex crime may be charged any time there is an act of intercourse, no matter how slight the penetration is. A California rape conviction will result in a three, six or eight year sentence in the California State Prison.

April 24, 2009

Singer Chris Brown Charged With Aggravated Assault

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged singer Chris Brown with felony aggravated assault last month for the high-profile alleged attack on his girlfriend Rihanna that took place in February. News sources reported that he was being hit with a Los Angeles assault with a deadly weapon (otherwise known as AWD) and all went on to say how bizarre that was, given the fact that no one disclosed what type of weapon was used.

Although ADW is typically thought of as requiring a weapon, the law actually reads much broader than that. California’s Penal Code section 245(a)(1) not only addresses assault with a deadly weapon but also refers to any instrument or force that is likely to cause a substantial injury. That is how the felony complaint against the entertainer read – that he used “force likely to produce great bodily injury”.

This is precisely the type of case that leaves people wondering - what qualifies as a deadly weapon? Deadly weapons are defined as weapons, instruments or other objects that are able and likely to cause death or serious injury.

Los Angeles courts have typically held that people’s body parts are not “deadly weapons." Yet they can be used as a basis for this type of aggravated assault charge if they are used in a way that is likely to severely injure another. ADW is simply the “catchall” phrase that is commonly associated with aggravated assault, but it’s only one way to invite the charge.

April 17, 2009

California and Nevada Possession of an Ounce of Marijuana

Although California marijuana Law and Nevada marijuana Law differ in many respects, both states take a relatively lax approach to citizens convicted of possessing marijuana as long as the amount weighs in at one ounce or less (California specifically says 28.5 grams or less, which is the metric equivalent of an ounce.) For a first-time offender in both California and Nevada, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, calling for the citizen to pay fines ($600 in NV, $100 in CA) and requiring no jail time.

Once citizens start racking up more then one possession offense, however, marijuana law in Las Vegas get stricter more quickly than the law in L.A. In California, the $100 fine still holds even for repeat-offenders (though after the third offense, the court might require rehab). In Nevada, a second offense of possession of an ounce or less raises the fine to $1,000. And a third defense is elevated to a gross misdemeanor, which gives the judge the discretion to sentence the citizen to up to a year in a Las Vegas jail.

Once the amount of marijuana in question exceeds an ounce, penalties for pot possession in Nevada and California become harsher. In California, it’s still a misdemeanor, but punishment tops off at $500 and six months in jail. Las Vegas marijuana law makes first-time possession of more than an ounce a felony, punishable by one to four years imprisonment with an optional $5,000 fine. In reality, though, jail can often be avoided for a first time offense in both states, especially if the citizen convicted of possession submits to some kind of rehabilitative program. This reflects a national trend in the criminal justice system to prevent drug abuse by treatment, support and education rather than by incarceration.