What is in the California Penal Code?

Hands flipping through CA penal code bookThe California Penal Code provides the laws that govern the criminal system in California. The penal code itself does not include drug laws, which are found under the California Health and Safety Code, or laws pertaining to vehicles and driving on the road, which are found in the California Vehicle Code. Generally, the Penal Code is referred to by a section, such as a 148, resisting a police officer.

History of the CA Penal Code

The first California Penal Code was enacted in 1872 and was one of four codes enacted at the time. This law was based on a similar code from the state of New York. Known as the Field Code, after one of the supposed writers, this code was used as a model for other states. Today’s penal code consists of six parts which are divided into titles and chapters with sections forming the lowest division of the code. Sections are numbered according to their parts.  If someone is arrested and seeking bail, they can use the CA Penal Code as a reference to understand what they have been charged with.

CA Penal Code Part 1

Part One of the penal code covers a number of areas and is the largest part of the code. It starts with establishing the definitions of legal terms and purpose of the code that fill up the first two titles of Part One. Beginning at Section 33, the code discusses crimes against the state including treason. This continues up to Title 7. Title 7 covers the court systems and laws about perjury. Here is a summary of the rest of Part One:

• Title 8: Violent Crimes
• Title 9: offenses against decency and public morals
• Title 10: Crimes against public health and safety
• Title 11: Crimes against public peace
• Title 12: Crimes against public revenue
• Title 13: Crimes against public property
• Title 14: Vandalism
• Title 15: Miscellaneous Crimes
• Title 16: General Provisions
• Title 17: Rights of witnesses and crime victims

CA Penal Code Part 2

Part Two of the code sets out the state’s criminal procedure system. Part Three sets up the state’s penal system. Part Four set out the state’s laws concerning criminal investigation, police training, crime prevention and gun control. Part Five sets up the California Peace Officers Memorial Fund. Part Six sets out the weapons laws of the state of California.

Frequently Used Sections

Here is a list of most frequently used sections from the California Penal Code. Sections are numbered starting in Title 7 and continue onward. Some numbers are skipped to allow the addition of new laws; others are added on such as 607a, 607b, etc.

• 187 – murder
• 207 – kidnapping
• 211 – robbery
• 240 – assault
• 242 – battery
• 245 – assault with a deadly weapon
• 415 – disturbing the peace
• 451 – arson
• 459 – burglary
• 594 – vandalism
• 602 – trespassing
• 607b – prostitution
• 607f – drunkenness

The California Penal Code is amended by the state legislature by passing a bill. Once the law is signed by the governor, the code is then changed. Generally, new laws and statues are added each year, mostly amendments to existing sections of the code.

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