Homicide is the unlawful killing of another human being. There are two types of homicide: murder and manslaughter. Most forms of homicide are felonies.
Murder is the unlawful killing of another with malice (evil or hatred) and with the specific intention to kill. Murder is divided into subcategories by degree of seriousness. Murder of the first degree is killing someone with malice and with the deliberate and premeditated intent to kill. The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing usually is characterized by torture, lying in wait, or using poison or an explosive device specifically to kill a person. If a person kills while committing arson, burglary, lewd acts against children, rape, or robbery, the court will decide the person had malice and premeditation, and will rule the person guilty of first degree murder. Murder of the second degree is similar to murder of the first degree, except the element of premeditation does not have to be proven. If a person kills while committing a felony that is inherently dangerous to human life other than arson, burglary, etc. the person will be found guilty of second degree murder. For example, if the defendant furnishes heroin to someone who uses it and dies of an overdose, the defendant probably will be charged with murder in the second degree. Under the law it is assumed that if the defendant had the specific intention to furnish the heroin, he or she had malice enough to be charged with murder.
Manslaughter is defined as killing a person without having malice. Like murder, there are different degrees of seriousness of manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter means the person had an intention to kill, and was provoked to commit the crime during an argument or the heat of passion. Involuntary manslaughter does not include the element of an intention to kill. Vehicular homicide is defined as manslaughter committed by driving a vehicle. For example, a person who commits a grossly negligent act while driving a car under the influence of alcohol, which results in someone being killed, would be charged with vehicular homicide.
Suicide is taking one's own life. Suicide and attempted suicide no longer are crimes in California. However, it is a felony for someone deliberately to aid, advise, or encourage another to commit suicide.
Under California law, assault and battery are separate crimes, although often they are charged together.
Assault is defined as an unlawful attempt to violently injure another person.
Battery means unlawfully and wilfully using force or violence against another person. Other laws make both assault and battery more serious crimes if the offender uses a firearm or other deadly weapon, commits the crime with the intent to commit mayhem or rape, or if the assault or battery is against a government officer or an elderly person. Under California law, transmission of HIV may constitute an aggravated battery.
Criminal sexual assault also known as rape is a felony that carries with it severe penalties. Rape is sexual intercourse against a person under one of the following circumstances:
- The victim is unable to give legal consent due to a mental disorder, developmental disability, or physical disability
- The victim is unable to resist because the person is unconscious, intoxicated, or anesthetized, and the assailant knew or should have known of the victim's condition
- The action is against the person's will by using force, violence, menace, duress, or fear of immediate injury, or by a threat to retaliate in the future
- The defendant is a public official who acts against the victim's will by a threat to arrest or deport the victim
California law specifically makes it unlawful for a man to rape his wife.
Aggravated criminal sexual assault is criminal sexual assault against a child under the age of 14, and who is ten or more years younger than the defendant. Acting in concert with others is another form of aggravated rape.
Sexual battery is a crime similar to rape, and is defined as touching the intimate part of another person who is restrained and without the person's consent. For example, sexually touching a person who is institutionalized and seriously disabled is sexual battery.
Kidnapping is forcibly, or by using fear, taking or holding or detaining a person, and carrying the person from one place to another. Kidnapping by persuading, enticing, or seducing a child under the age of 14 with misrepresentations or false promises also constitutes criminal kidnapping under California law. The California kidnapping law also specifically prohibits kidnapping of any person adult or child by making misrepresentations or false promises, if the intent is to sell the person into slavery or involuntary servitude or to use or employ the person for one's own purposes. Kidnapping for ransom or extortion, and kidnapping during a carjacking, are more severe crimes that carry additional penalties. All forms of kidnapping are felonies.
Stalking is the crime of maliciously, willfully, and repeatedly following or harassing a person, and making a believable threat in order to make the person afraid for his or her safety or the safety or his or her family. The harassment may be any behavior that annoys, torments, terrorizes, or alarms the victim, but it must be specifically directed at the victim to serve no other legitimate purpose except to cause fear or bother him or her. Depending on the circumstances, stalking may be punished as a misdemeanor or a felony. If there is a protective order in effect against the stalker, or if the accused has been convicted of stalking previously, the stalking is a felony.
California law prohibits hate crime, which is defined as violence, intimidation, or threat of violence against a person due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, position in a labor dispute, race, religion, or sexual orientation. For example, if a group of white people assault a black person, and during the assault use racial insults, they may be charged with committing a hate crime as well as criminal assault. A person found guilty of a hate crime receives additional punishments. If a person is murdered because of his or her color, nationality, national origin, race, or religion, the defendant will receive the death penalty. If a person commits a felony that also is a hate crime, he or she will receive an additional one to three years of imprisonment in the state prison. Some misdemeanors become felonies if they are committed based on the victim's race, religion, etc. If people act in concert with others to commit a hate crime, they receive even harsher additional penalties.
Depending on the value of the property involved, as well as the level of violence, most property crimes are felonies in California. The legal definition of theft is the felonious stealing, taking, carrying, leading, or driving away of the personal property of another, or fraudulently appropriating property that has been entrusted by the other. This definition is much broader than what most people think of as theft. It includes writing bad checks, embezzlement, keeping found property without making a reasonable attempt to find its rightful owner, misusing trade secrets, unlawfully tapping into cable television services, obtaining telephone or telegraph services by fraud, or obtaining the labor or services of another person by fraud.
Burglary is entering into a building, dwelling, or vehicle with the intent to commit theft or a felony there. Not only is it burglary to enter a house unlawfully with the intent to steal money or property, but it is also burglary to enter with the intent to commit a felony such as arson or murder.
Robbery is feloniously taking personal property from another person or in the person's immediate presence, by using force or causing fear.