Recently, a driver was arrested for intentionally driving his vehicle into a federal employee in Laguna Niguel, California (http://mynewsla.com/orange-county/2016/03/04/suspect-uses-car-to-strike-injure-employee-outside-federal-building-in-laguna-niguel/?google_editors_picks=true). Using a car to intentionally injure someone in California can lead to criminal charges ranging from attempted murder to assault with a deadly weapon. When arrested for a violent crime in California, whether it be in Los Angeles, Lancaster, Costa Mesa, West Covina, Pasadena or any other city in California, it is always advisable to consult with and retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
1. Assault with a Deadly Weapon in California
California Penal Code section 245(a)(1) penalizes defendants for assault with a deadly weapon. Specifically, Penal Code section 245(a)(1) prohibits assault upon another person while using a deadly weapon, another instrument or by means likely to produce great bodily harm. A conviction for assault with a deadly weapon in California is not only a felony conviction but also considered a strike under California Three Strikes Law which can lead to an increased and perhaps a life sentence if convicted subsequently of other felonies in California.
California Courts have found that not only guns can be considered deadly weapons but also knives, fists and even cars. In addition, if the force used is by means likely to produce great bodily injury, such as driving a car into someone, then a jury may also convict a defendant for violating Penal Code section 245(a)(1). In cases where a car is allegedly used as a deadly weapon, there may be defenses to such a charge which could include self-defense, often times used in a road rage situation, or lack of intent meaning that the collision was an accident. These can be complicated issues and it is always advisable to have a seasoned attorney determine the best course of action in defending felony charges in California.
If you prevail on a defense of assault with a deadly weapons charge the case may be dismissed or an attorney may be able to get the charges dropped to a misdemeanor simple assault in violation of Penal Code section 240 or another less serious charge.
2. Penalties for Assault with a Deadly Weapon
If a defendant is convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in California, they face 2, 3 or 4 years in a California state prison. In addition, their conviction counts as a strike. However, if a person is sentenced under Penal Code section 245(a)(1) on the grounds that forced was used by means likely to produce great bodily injury but there was no actual great bodily injury sustained, then a defendant can be convicted of a violation of Penal Code section 245(a)(1) without it being considered a strike. In addition, Penal Code section 245(a)(1) is a wobbler which means that the assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or reduced to a misdemeanor by agreement by a court or at trial. A misdemeanor conviction could possible lead to no jail or very little jail time with a maximum sentence of 1 year in county jail
When charged with assault or related felony or misdemeanor charges in California, an accused should first speak with a California criminal lawyer who knows the law in this field and can guide you through a positive resolution of what could be a life changing conviction if not handled properly.