A Felony is a serious criminal offense that could result in one or more years of imprisonment. When faced with a felony charge, it would be best to seek help from a competent criminal defense lawyer. A capable attorney will help you develop defense strategies and even represent you in court.

At The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley, we have the best lawyers serving the Pasadena area. With our experience in handling felony cases, we will vigorously defend your case, leading to reduced charges. If charged with a felony crime, consider contacting us; we have had many years of success, building strong defenses, and protecting your legal rights.

What is a Felony?

A felony is a crime punishable by incarceration in jail or prison for a year or more. Some serious felony crimes are punishable by death. The less severe offenses are considered as misdemeanors and are punishable by a year in jail or fines. California laws categorize crimes as felonies and misdemeanors. In California, felonies are severer than misdemeanors.

In California, felonies are classified into two subdivisions:

  1. Straight felonies

  2. Wobbler felonies

  1. Straight Felonies

Straight felonies are the most severe crimes charged as a felony, and cannot reduce to a misdemeanor. Examples of straight felonies are murder, rape, arson, and robbery.

Arson: California Penal Code section 451

Arson is a crime involving the illegal burning down of property using fire. Property refers to things like a forest, house, boat, or car. The offense carries severe consequences in California. Mostly, arson cases involve property damage and could cause injuries or loss of life. Under California Penal Code section 451, you are guilty of arson if you maliciously and willfully set fire to burn or procure any property, structure, land, or forest.

Penalties for Arson

Arson is charged as a felony since it has a high chance of causing severe injuries and even death. There are varying degrees of arson, depending on the burnt property. When arson causes physical injury, you could face a felony charge and serve nine years of imprisonment upon conviction.

  • Arson of an inhabited structure

When you burn an inherited property, you commit a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to eight years. If you burn a forest or land, the crime is a felony punishable by up to six years imprisonment. However, the judge could enhance the penalties if:

  • The fire caused excess damage.

  • You had previously faced an arson conviction.

  • The fire burnt more than one person or multiple structures.

Common Legal Defenses Against Arson

In improving arson charges, the prosecution should prove you caused the fire maliciously and willfully. Here are the legal defenses you and your lawyer could use:

  1. Mistaken Identity and Alibi

Several reasons make you suffer from mistaken identity. Perhaps the witness mistakenly identified you as the perpetrator, or maybe your belongings were found at the fire scene. Most arson cases lack witnesses. Furthermore, it is difficult to find a suspect at the scene.

Besides, the prosecution should prove it is you who set the fire. The evidence could be a photograph or eye witness which they may lack. It leads to a second defense for arson, alibi. An alibi is a claim showing you were somewhere else when the crime took place. If you provide evidence you were in a different area, the court could drop your charges.

  1. Insufficient Evidence

To secure convictions of reckless burning, the prosecutor should prove you committed arson beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence, the court cannot convict you.

  1. The Fire Started Accidentally

To be convicted of Arson, the prosecutor must prove you started the fire willfully and maliciously. Accidental burning isn't a crime. However, the defense is not valid if you started the fire while intoxicated.

  1. Mental Incapacity

When you suffer mental incapacity, you cannot make the right decisions and can't be held responsible for arson's crime. In California, arson charges are serious crimes that attract severe penalties. If charged with the crime, it is essential to contact The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley to fight on your behalf. We can build the best legal defenses for you based on circumstances surrounding your case.

Rape: California PC 261

California PC 261 defines rape as the act of using fraud, threats of force, or force to have sexual intercourse with a person to whom you aren’t married to, against their will. Penal Code 261 gives a list of acts that constitute a rape offense. These acts include non-consensual sex with another person when:

  • Sexual intercourse occurs using force, duress, or violence.

  • The other person can't consent to sex because they are mentally disabled.

  • The other person can't consent to sex because of intoxication.

Penalties for Rape

In California, rape offense is punishable by:

  • Formal probation

  • Imprisonment for up to 8 years

Possible Defenses to a Rape Case

In California, a defendant may challenge a rape case with a legal defense. With competent lawyers, you can have your charges dismissed or reduced. Possible defenses include:

  1. Lack of Sufficient Evidence

Lack of sufficient evidence occurs when the prosecution fails to prove the case appropriately by failing to present substantial evidence against the defendant. With a competent lawyer, you could cease doubts against the prosecutor’s evidence. Insufficient evidence will lead to a dismissal of the case.

  1. Mistaken identity

Eyewitness is the leading factor in giving wrongful convictions. Several factors lead to misidentification, including low lighting, suggestive lineups, cross-racial identifications, and unclear memory recollection. In California, there is no procedure set for ensuring the accuracy of a witness. The law enforcement officers do not document a witness's hesitation during their study time regarding identifying a defendant.

  1. False accusation

False accusations are almost in every part of the world today. The false allegation may be through your dating partners, stepchildren you are raising, or former spouses. The accuser may decide to manipulate the criminal justice system against the defendant to obtain success in business disputes, child custody proceedings, or revenge if they had an affair with the defendant.

What is Robbery Under California Law?

California law defines robbery as attempting or taking another person's personal property of value, from their presence against their will through force or fear of threats.

Penalties for Robbery

Sentencing for a robbery offense depends on the degree of the robbery. The first-degree robbery constitutes of:

  • A passenger or driver in a taxi, lorry, train, streetcar, bus, etc

  • Any person in an inhabited building

In California, the first-degree robbery will lead to state prison sentences of 3 to 9 years. Alternatively, the second degree-robbery has a punishment of between 2 to 5 years in prison.

What Must a Prosecutor Prove for a Robbery Case?

To be convicted on a robbery charge, a California prosecutor must prove the following facts:

  • The defendant took the property against the will of the victim

  • You took the item which never belonged to you

  • The defendant threatened or used force to take the property

  • You had an intention of depriving the other person's property

  • The commodity owned the other person when you took it

What are Common Defenses for Robbery in California?

Robbery cases in California lead to severe punishments and sentencing. You, therefore, need an aggressive and competent criminal defense attorney. It would be best if you seek help from The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley. They will raise possible defenses to have the charges dismissed or reduced. The common possible defenses you can use include:

  1. Good Faith Belief

A good faith belief is one of the best defenses used by attorneys in California. Reasonably believing the property taken was yours would be a good defense.

  1. False Allegations

It is common nowadays for people to falsely accuse others of robbery crimes. These cases may occur as a result of mental illness, misunderstanding, or revenge. Experienced criminal defense attorneys they may argue the victim's statement is faulty and untrustworthy. You should identify the reason why the alleged victim made false accusations against you. However, contacting an experienced attorney will help negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges dismissed or reduced.

  1. Absence of the Use of Fear or Force

A robbery will need proof you used force and fear threats intending to take the commodity. For instance: You and the alleged victim fought in a bar. After you win the fight, you obtain an opportunity to take the victim's wallet. In case the fight had no concerns with the wallet, and you never formed the intention to steal the wallet until the end of the fight, then robbery wasn't committed. You won't face robbery convictions once proved you didn't use fear or force when taking the other person's item.

  1. Mistaken Identity

Although some defenses may acknowledge robbery took place, you may challenge the alleged victim's evidence the defendant was involved in the robbery. The defendant may also present an alibi witness proving the defendant was in different places when the crime occurred.

Was the Property Taken Against the Owner's Will?

Sometimes the defense involves disputes on whether the item was taken or given. For instance, If the defendant used a gun to demand a certain amount of money from the alleged victim against their will, it is robbery. However, suppose the defendant merely requested the money, and no threatening gestures made. In the case, the judge might reasonably conclude the defendant received the money requested and not robbed.


Murder is an intentional and unlawful pre-planned killing. It comes under two classifications, namely:

  1. First-degree murder

  2. Second-degree murder

The first-degree murder occurs when you kill someone deliberately and predetermined. Additionally, you may be charged with first-degree murder in California under the following circumstances:

  • If you use explosives, poison, or weapons of mass destruction in the killing

  • when the defendant had implications of torturing the killed person

  • If you committed a specific felony, including robbery, arson, kidnapping, rape, death occurred.

  • If the killing is deliberate, predetermined, and committed willfully.

First Degree Murder Penalties

  • Imprisonment in California state prison for 25years to life

  • A life sentence in California state prison without parole

  • Death penalty

The second degree is a murder resulting from the defendant's reckless conduct against human life concerns. However, there are circumstances under which the sentence could become modified, including:

  • If the defendant killed a police officer

  • The killing was made by shooting from a vehicle and intended to cause serious injuries

  • If the defendant has a prior criminal record

Common Legal Defenses Against Felony Murder Cases

When faced with murder felonies, several strategies may suit your case. Hiring a defense attorney could be the best choice to make. The attorneys will fight for you and your charges. Here are the common strategies used against felony murder charges:

  1. Self Defense

If the defendant killed another person for self-defense, then the law could excuse your criminal contact. The defendant needs to show killing resulted from reasonable force to resist the fear of deaths or bodily harm.

For instance, if the other person intended raping, robbing, killing, or causing bodily injuries, you believed in using a deadly force to defend the danger. It could be considered a justifiable homicide, therefore defeating the murder charges against you.

  1. Insanity

California law can excuse criminal conduct if they find out the killer does not understand their acts' nature and cannot distinguish between right and wrong.

  1. The Murder Occured Accidentally

Accidents happen. Killings committed accidentally don't constitute murder.

When an accident results in killing another person, there are several legal defenses to murder if:

  • The defendant did not have the intention of harming anyone.

  • The defendant did not act negligently.

  • Suppose you were in a lawful activity when the killing occurred.

Under California Penal Code 195, with the above elements, constitute an excusable homicide.

  1. Mistaken Identity

When accused of mistaken identity, you should provide an alibi if possible. The alibi will provide evidence you were somewhere else at the time of the killing.

When charged with felony murder, you need the help of a skilled and knowledgeable lawyer. The law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley will be your greatest weapon to navigate the legal system defending your freedom.

Wobbler Felonies

A wobbler is an offense charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. In determining whether the crime is a felony, the prosecution considers two factors, including:

  • The circumstances and facts presented when the offense occurred

  • The defendant's criminal record

When the defendant lacks a prior criminal record, the crime becomes a misdemeanor.

How a Misdemeanor Becomes a Felony in California

  • When the defendant has prior convictions

  • When the case details are inflammatory

Examples of wobbler offenses include Petty theft, Assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, Domestic violence, and forgery.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Assault using a deadly weapon is a wobbler crime. The offense occurs when a person attempts or attacks another person using a deadly weapon, excluding a firearm. The offense is chargeable as a felony or misdemeanor.

The prosecutor must prove the following:

  • The defendant performed the crime purposefully and willfully.

  • The defendant reasonably knew the act would cause an application of force on another person.

  • The defendant used a deadly weapon apart from a firearm.

  • The defendant had a present ability in applying pressure with a deadly weapon or, in a way causing significant bodily injury.

Penalties for Assault with a Deadly Weapon

In California, wobbler crimes are chargeable as a felony or misdemeanor.

In cases when the offense is chargeable as a misdemeanor, the punishments include:

  • Formal probation

  • Fine up to 1,000 USD

  • County jail up to 1 year

When charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • A maximum fine of 10,000 USD

  • Felony probation

  • Imprisonment of up to 4 years in a state prison

However, the penalties will change when the defendant used a deadly weapon like a firearm.

Possible Defenses to Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Defendants can potentially obtain their assault charges with deadly weapons dismissed or reduced by asserting a legal defense. The common defenses include:

  1. Self-Defense

Defendants can beat their assault with deadly weapon charges by saying they acted in self-defense by protecting themselves. The defense will work when the defendant:

  • Used required force in defense

  • Believed they were in approaching danger

  1. No Intent

For a defendant to be guilty under PC 45, they should act willfully. The defendant can prove they had no intention of using the weapon by providing evidence. When the defendant did not act with any intent, they wouldn't face conviction. The prosecution must prove the defendant acted with the intention for them to face conviction.

  1. Did the Defendant use a Deadly Weapon?

A defendant will be guilty under the law when they committed an assault with a lethal weapon. Accordingly, the defendant's attorney should show, even if the defendant committed the crime, they did not use a lethal weapon. The defendant may support their defense by highlighting facts showing the weapons they used were not deadly.

Sexual Battery

Sexual assault is touching another person's private part, against the victim's will for sexual arousal, sexual abuse, or sexual pleasure. The crime is punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific case. Examples of intimate parts are breast, anus, groin, buttock, and penis.

Penalties for a misdemeanor are:

  • Imprisonment up to one year in county jail

  • Fine up to two thousand dollars

Alternatively, Felony penalties are:

  • Fine up to 10,000 USD

  • A sentence in state prison for up to 4 years

When convicted with a misdemeanor sexual battery, you will have to register in the sexual offender's registry for a period not less than ten years. Alternatively, a felony conviction results in registration where the victim's name remains in the registry for the rest of their lives.

To face conviction of sexual battery, the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • You touched the victim's intending erection, sexual abuse, and sexual pleasure

  • The act was against the victim's will

  • You touched the victim's intimate parts while restraining the victim

Common Legal Defenses to Sex Assault

Possible defenses which counter a sexual assault charge include:

  1. Victims Consent

In cases where the alleged victim consented, it becomes the primary defense to sexual assault. Having a reasonable belief, the victim gave consent is a defense. However, when the alleged victim is an individual lacking mental capacity or a child, consent is not an acceptable defense.

  1. Lack of Evidence

Lack of evidence results in the dismissal of sexual battery charges. When someone makes an allegation, the prosecutor may not charge the alleged offender without witnesses or physical contact on the accuser.

  1. False Accusations

Victims of sexual assault make a false accusation at times. Some of the victims have a mental illness or make accusations seeking attention. Furthermore, the victim may be seeking revenge for an ex dating partner. The defendant may prove the allegations were false, intending to hurt their image and reputation.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is committing abuse against a close partner. A person commits abuse by recklessly or intentionally using or threatening to use physical force against their intimate partner.

Penalties for Committing Domestic Violence

Wobbler offenses are changeable as misdemeanor or felony according to:

  • The seriousness of the other victim's injury

  • Circumstances of the crime

  • Defendant's criminal record

Apart from punishment by a prison or jail sentence, other domestic violence convictions include:

  • Mandatory minimum jail time

  • Payment of fines

  • Losing custody rights

  • When the defendant is a non-citizen, they may face immigration consequences like deportation

  • Summary probation

Possible Defenses to Domestic Violence

Although domestic violence is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony, the defendant may use a competent lawyer to have their charges dismissed or reduced. The possible defenses include:

  1. The Injury Resulted From an Accident

The defendant may claim the other person's injury was as a result of an accident. They may admit they were present when the victim obtained an injury. However, they should claim the whole injury was as a result of the accident. The defendant may provide evidence the incident was a result of an accident.

  1. False Allegations

The defendant may face false accusations due to jealousy or anger, attempting to gain the upper hand in divorce or child custody proceedings. The victim might fabricate the whole story in a bid to obtain even.

  1. Self-Defense

The defendant may argue they were acting in self-defense or defense for another person. When the physical contact resulted in an accident, the defendant won't face domestic violence conviction. When the defendant had no purpose or will create unwanted harmful contact, it isn't domestic violence.

  1. No Intent

The defendant may admit they committed the crime. However, the injury resulted from the partners' behaviors. The defendant may argue the injury resulted from the victim's temper or medical condition. Therefore, the defendant had no purpose or intent of committing the crime.

Contact a Felony Defense Lawyer Near Me

The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley is a dedicated firm with criminal defense lawyers that have many years of experience handling felony charges. Furthermore, our competent lawyers have adequate knowledge of developing legal defense strategies. Strategic defenses could lead to dismissal or reduction of your felony charges. We are aggressive in serving your best interests and protecting your rights. Contact us at 626-793-4111 and talk with our felony defense lawyers in Pasadena, California.