Most Common Crimes in California

most common crimes

Most Common Crimes in California

most common crimesCertain criminal crimes occur every day in California.  Most are misdemeanors that a large amount of the population commit.  This blogpost will discuss some of the major areas and crimes that affect the majority of people.

Possession of Marijuana

California legalized recreational marijuana on January 1, 2018.  Adults age 21 and older may possess up to one ounce of dried marijuana or eight grams of concentrated cannabis.  A person 21 and older may also grow six plans for personal use.

If you exceed this amount, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and punished up to 6 months in jail and/or up to a $500 fine. Those under 21 can be charged with an infraction and sentenced to a fine if you are at least 18.  Those under 18 will be sentenced to drug counseling and community service.

Note, recreational marijuana is still illegal under federal law and the penalties are significantly higher.

Domestic Battery

Domestic battery is a common violence crime in California.  The legal definition is any willful and unlawful touching that is harmful or offensive and is committed against

  1. The defendant’s spouse or former spouse,
  2. The defendant’s cohabitant or former cohabitant,
  3. The defendant’s fiancé(e) or former fiancé(e),
  4. A person with whom the defendant has or used to have a dating relationship, or
  5. The father or mother of the defendant’s child.

A person can be charged with domestic battery even if the victim is not injured.  All that is required is a use of force or violence against him or her.

Domestic battery is a misdemeanor in California. Penalties can include a fine up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence is one of the most common driving crimes in California.  Most DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, however you can be charged with a felony DUI if you injury someone or you have prior DUIs on your record.

Fines can range from $300 – $1,000 for your first offense, driver license suspension, and required DUI school. Subsequent offense increase the jail time, fines, time for driver license suspension, and time for DUI school.

California is unique in that the state allows you to contact the DMV to request a hearing for your driver license suspension.  You must contact the DMV within 10 days of your arrest to demand a hearing.  If you don’t, you forfeit your right to a hearing and your license is automatically suspended after 30 days.  This hearing may allow you to drive on a restricted license to go to work and drive children.


Shoplifting is defined as entering a business with the intent to steal merchandise worth $950 or less.  This crime was created by a voter initiative in 2014.  In actuality, this crime is similar to the crime of petty theft in California.

A shoplifting offense is typically charged as a misdemeanor crime.  Potential penalties include up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.  If you have prior convictions on your record, a shoplifting offense may rise to a felony offense.

Credit Card Fraud

California law prohibits any type of fraudulent activity that takes place involving credit debit or access cards or the information contained in or related to a credit/debit card account.

Fraudulent intent includes intent to deceive another person or entity that the person or entity suffers a loss and you benefit. Penalties depend on the level of fraud.  Petty theft is a misdemeanor while forgery is a felony that subjects you to 16 months in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Click here for an overview of DUI in California.