Preliminary Provisions of California Penal Code
This Code takes effect at twelve o'clock, noon, on the first day
of January, eighteen hundred and seventy-three.
No part of it is retroactive, unless expressly so declared.
The rule of the common law, that penal statutes are to be
strictly construed, has no application to this Code. All its
provisions are to be construed according to the fair import of their
terms, with a view to effect its objects and to promote justice.
The provisions of this Code, so far as they are substantially
the same as existing statutes, must be construed as continuations
thereof, and not as new enactments.
No act or omission, commenced after twelve o'clock noon of the
day on which this Code takes effect as a law, is criminal or
punishable, except as prescribed or authorized by this Code, or by
some of the statutes which it specifies as continuing in force and as
not affected by its provisions, or by some ordinance, municipal,
county, or township regulation, passed or adopted, under such
statutes and in force when this Code takes effect. Any act or
omission commenced prior to that time may be inquired of, prosecuted,
and punished in the same manner as if this Code had not been passed.
Words used in this code in the present tense include the future
as well as the present; words used in the masculine gender include
the feminine and neuter; the singular number includes the plural, and
the plural the singular; the word "person" includes a corporation as
well as a natural person; the word "county" includes "city and
county"; writing includes printing and typewriting; oath includes
affirmation or declaration; and every mode of oral statement, under
oath or affirmation, is embraced by the term "testify," and every
written one in the term "depose"; signature or subscription includes
mark, when the person cannot write, his or her name being written
near it, by a person who writes his or her own name as a witness;
provided, that when a signature is made by mark it must, in order
that the same may be acknowledged or serve as the signature to any
sworn statement, be witnessed by two persons who must subscribe their
own names as witnesses thereto.
The following words have in this code the signification attached
to them in this section, unless otherwise apparent from the context:
1. The word "willfully," when applied to the intent with which an
act is done or omitted, implies simply a purpose or willingness to
commit the act, or make the omission referred to. It does not require
any intent to violate law, or to injure another, or to acquire any
2. The words "neglect," "negligence," "negligent," and
"negligently" import a want of such attention to the nature or
probable consequences of the act or omission as a prudent man
ordinarily bestows in acting in his own concerns.
3. The word "corruptly" imports a wrongful design to acquire or
cause some pecuniary or other advantage to the person guilty of the
act or omission referred to, or to some other person.
4. The words "malice" and "maliciously" import a wish to vex,
annoy, or injure another person, or an intent to do a wrongful act,
established either by proof or presumption of law.
5. The word "knowingly" imports only a knowledge that the facts
exist which bring the act or omission within the provisions of this
code. It does not require any knowledge of the unlawfulness of such
act or omission.
6. The word "bribe" signifies anything of value or advantage,
present or prospective, or any promise or undertaking to give any,
asked, given, or accepted, with a corrupt intent to influence,
unlawfully, the person to whom it is given, in his or her action,
vote, or opinion, in any public or official capacity.
7. The word "vessel," when used with reference to shipping,
includes ships of all kinds, steamboats, canalboats, barges, and
every structure adapted to be navigated from place to place for the
transportation of merchandise or persons, except that, as used in
Sections 192.5 and 193.5, the word "vessel" means a vessel as defined
in subdivision (c) of Section 651 of the Harbors and Navigation
8. The words "peace officer" signify any one of the officers
mentioned in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of
9. The word "magistrate" signifies any one of the officers
mentioned in Section 808.
10. The word "property" includes both real and personal property.
11. The words "real property" are coextensive with lands,
tenements, and hereditaments.
12. The words "personal property" include money, goods, chattels,
things in action, and evidences of debt.
13. The word "month" means a calendar month, unless otherwise
expressed; the word "daytime" means the period between sunrise and
sunset, and the word "nighttime" means the period between sunset and
14. The word "will" includes codicil.
15. The word "writ" signifies an order or precept in writing,
issued in the name of the people, or of a court or judicial officer,
and the word "process" a writ or summons issued in the course of
16. Words and phrases must be construed according to the context
and the approved usage of the language; but technical words and
phrases, and such others as may have acquired a peculiar and
appropriate meaning in law, must be construed according to such
peculiar and appropriate meaning.
17. Words giving a joint authority to three or more public
officers or other persons, are construed as giving such authority to
a majority of them, unless it is otherwise expressed in the act
giving the authority.
18. When the seal of a court or public officer is required by law
to be affixed to any paper, the word "seal" includes an impression of
such seal upon the paper alone, or upon any substance attached to
the paper capable of receiving a visible impression. The seal of a
private person may be made in like manner, or by the scroll of a pen,
or by writing the word "seal" against his or her name.
19. The word "state," when applied to the different parts of the
United States, includes the District of Columbia and the territories,
and the words "United States" may include the district and
20. The word "section," whenever hereinafter employed, refers to a
section of this code, unless some other code or statute is expressly
21. To "book" signifies the recordation of an arrest in official
police records, and the taking by the police of fingerprints and
photographs of the person arrested, or any of these acts following an
Whenever any offense is described in this code, the Uniform
Controlled Substances Act (Division 10 (commencing with Section
11000) of the Health and Safety Code), or the Welfare and
Institutions Code, as criminal conduct and as a violation of a
specified code section or a particular provision of a code section,
in the case of any ambiguity or conflict in interpretation, the code
section or particular provision of the code section shall take
precedence over the descriptive language. The descriptive language
shall be deemed as being offered only for ease of reference unless it
is otherwise clearly apparent from the context that the descriptive
language is intended to narrow the application of the referenced code
section or particular provision of the code section.
Whenever, by any of the provisions of this Code, an intent to
defraud is required in order to constitute any offense, it is
sufficient if an intent appears to defraud any person, association,
or body politic or corporate, whatever.
The omission to specify or affirm in this Code any liability to
damages, penalty, forfeiture, or other remedy imposed by law and
allowed to be recovered or enforced in any civil action or
proceeding, for any act or omission declared punishable herein, does
not affect any right to recover or enforce the same.
The omission to specify or affirm in this Code any ground of
forfeiture of a public office, or other trust or special authority
conferred by law, or any power conferred by law to impeach, remove,
depose, or suspend any public officer or other person holding any
trust, appointment, or other special authority conferred by law, does
not affect such forfeiture or power, or any proceeding authorized by
law to carry into effect such impeachment, removal, deposition, or
This code does not affect any power conferred by law upon any
court-martial, or other military authority or officer, to impose or
inflict punishment upon offenders; nor, except as provided in Section
19.2 of this code, any power conferred by law upon any public body,
tribunal, or officer, to impose or inflict punishment for a contempt.
The several sections of this Code which declare certain crimes
to be punishable as therein mentioned, devolve a duty upon the Court
authorized to pass sentence, to determine and impose the punishment
Whenever in this Code the punishment for a crime is left
undetermined between certain limits, the punishment to be inflicted
in a particular case must be determined by the Court authorized to
pass sentence, within such limits as may be prescribed by this Code.
The various sections of this Code which declare that evidence
obtained upon the examination of a person as a witness cannot be
received against him in any criminal proceeding, do not forbid such
evidence being proved against such person upon any proceedings
founded upon a charge of perjury committed in such examination.
A crime or public offense is an act committed or omitted in
violation of a law forbidding or commanding it, and to which is
annexed, upon conviction, either of the following punishments:
4. Removal from office; or,
5. Disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust,
or profit in this State.
Crimes and public offenses include:
2. Misdemeanors; and
(a) A felony is a crime that is punishable with death, by
imprisonment in the state prison, or notwithstanding any other
provision of law, by imprisonment in a county jail under the
provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170. Every other crime or
public offense is a misdemeanor except those offenses that are
classified as infractions.
(b) When a crime is punishable, in the discretion of the court,
either by imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment in a
county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170,
or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, it is a misdemeanor
for all purposes under the following circumstances:
(1) After a judgment imposing a punishment other than imprisonment
in the state prison or imprisonment in a county jail under the
provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(2) When the court, upon committing the defendant to the Division
of Juvenile Justice, designates the offense to be a misdemeanor.
(3) When the court grants probation to a defendant without
imposition of sentence and at the time of granting probation, or on
application of the defendant or probation officer thereafter, the
court declares the offense to be a misdemeanor.
(4) When the prosecuting attorney files in a court having
jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses a complaint specifying that
the offense is a misdemeanor, unless the defendant at the time of his
or her arraignment or plea objects to the offense being made a
misdemeanor, in which event the complaint shall be amended to charge
the felony and the case shall proceed on the felony complaint.
(5) When, at or before the preliminary examination or prior to
filing an order pursuant to Section 872, the magistrate determines
that the offense is a misdemeanor, in which event the case shall
proceed as if the defendant had been arraigned on a misdemeanor
(c) When a defendant is committed to the Division of Juvenile
Justice for a crime punishable, in the discretion of the court,
either by imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment in a
county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170,
or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year,
the offense shall, upon the discharge of the defendant from the
Division of Juvenile Justice, thereafter be deemed a misdemeanor for
(d) A violation of any code section listed in Section 19.8 is an
infraction subject to the procedures described in Sections 19.6 and
(1) The prosecutor files a complaint charging the offense as an
infraction unless the defendant, at the time he or she is arraigned,
after being informed of his or her rights, elects to have the case
proceed as a misdemeanor, or;
(2) The court, with the consent of the defendant, determines that
the offense is an infraction in which event the case shall proceed as
if the defendant had been arraigned on an infraction complaint.
(e) Nothing in this section authorizes a judge to relieve a
defendant of the duty to register as a sex offender pursuant to
Section 290 if the defendant is charged with an offense for which
registration as a sex offender is required pursuant to Section 290,
and for which the trier of fact has found the defendant guilty.
(a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) The Legislature reaffirms its commitment to reducing
recidivism among criminal offenders.
(2) Despite the dramatic increase in corrections spending over the
past two decades, national reincarceration rates for people released
from prison remain unchanged or have worsened. National data show
that about 40 percent of released individuals are reincarcerated
within three years. In California, the recidivism rate for persons
who have served time in prison is even greater than the national
(3) Criminal justice policies that rely on building and operating
more prisons to address community safety concerns are not
sustainable, and will not result in improved public safety.
(4) California must reinvest its criminal justice resources to
support community-based corrections programs and evidence-based
practices that will achieve improved public safety returns on this
state's substantial investment in its criminal justice system.
(5) Realigning low-level felony offenders who do not have prior
convictions for serious, violent, or sex offenses to locally run
community-based corrections programs, which are strengthened through
community-based punishment, evidence-based practices, improved
supervision strategies, and enhanced secured capacity, will improve
public safety outcomes among adult felons and facilitate their
reintegration back into society.
(6) Community-based corrections programs require a partnership
between local public safety entities and the county to provide and
expand the use of community-based punishment for low-level offender
populations. Each county's Local Community Corrections Partnership,
as established in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 1230,
should play a critical role in developing programs and ensuring
appropriate outcomes for low-level offenders.
(7) Fiscal policy and correctional practices should align to
promote a justice reinvestment strategy that fits each county.
"Justice reinvestment" is a data-driven approach to reduce
corrections and related criminal justice spending and reinvest
savings in strategies designed to increase public safety. The purpose
of justice reinvestment is to manage and allocate criminal justice
populations more cost-effectively, generating savings that can be
reinvested in evidence-based strategies that increase public safety
while holding offenders accountable.
(8) "Community-based punishment" means correctional sanctions and
programming encompassing a range of custodial and noncustodial
responses to criminal or noncompliant offender activity.
Community-based punishment may be provided by local public safety
entities directly or through community-based public or private
correctional service providers, and include, but are not limited to,
(A) Short-term flash incarceration in jail for a period of not
more than 10 days.
(B) Intensive community supervision.
(C) Home detention with electronic monitoring or GPS monitoring.
(D) Mandatory community service.
(E) Restorative justice programs such as mandatory victim
restitution and victim-offender reconciliation.
(F) Work, training, or education in a furlough program pursuant to
(G) Work, in lieu of confinement, in a work release program
pursuant to Section 4024.2.
(H) Day reporting.
(I) Mandatory residential or nonresidential substance abuse
(J) Mandatory random drug testing.
(K) Mother-infant care programs.
(L) Community-based residential programs offering structure,
supervision, drug treatment, alcohol treatment, literacy programming,
employment counseling, psychological counseling, mental health
treatment, or any combination of these and other interventions.
(9) "Evidence-based practices" refers to supervision policies,
procedures, programs, and practices demonstrated by scientific
research to reduce recidivism among individuals under probation,
parole, or post release supervision.
(b) The provisions of this act are not intended to alleviate state
The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(a) Strategies supporting reentering offenders through practices
and programs, such as standardized risk and needs assessments,
transitional community housing, treatment, medical and mental health
services, and employment, have been demonstrated to significantly
reduce recidivism among offenders in other states.
(b) Improving outcomes among offenders reentering the community
after serving time in a correctional facility will promote public
safety and will reduce California's prison and jail populations.
(c) Establishing a California reentry program that encompasses
strategies known to reduce recidivism warrants a vigorous short-term
startup in the 2014-15 fiscal year using readily available resources
in the community, and a comprehensive long-term development plan for
future budget years designed to expand the availability, impact, and
sustainability of these strategies as further community partnerships
are identified and developed.
(a) Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed
by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony is
punishable by imprisonment for 16 months, or two or three years in
the state prison unless the offense is punishable pursuant to
subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(b) Every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to
be a felony punishable by imprisonment or by a fine, but without an
alternate sentence to the county jail for a period not exceeding one
year, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not
exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both.
Every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to
be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail up to or not exceeding
one year shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a
period not to exceed 364 days.
Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by
any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is
punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six
months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by
In no case shall any person sentenced to confinement in a
county or city jail, or in a county or joint county penal farm, road
camp, work camp, or other county adult detention facility, or
committed to the sheriff for placement in any county adult detention
facility, on conviction of a misdemeanor, or as a condition of
probation upon conviction of either a felony or a misdemeanor, or
upon commitment for civil contempt, or upon default in the payment of
a fine upon conviction of either a felony or a misdemeanor, or for
any reason except upon conviction of a crime that specifies a felony
punishment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 or a
conviction of more than one offense when consecutive sentences have
been imposed, be committed for a period in excess of one year;
provided, however, that the time allowed on parole shall not be
considered as a part of the period of confinement.
When an act or omission is declared by a statute to be a
public offense and no penalty for the offense is prescribed in any
statute, the act or omission is punishable as a misdemeanor.
An infraction is not punishable by imprisonment. A person
charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to a trial by jury.
A person charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to have the
public defender or other counsel appointed at public expense to
represent him or her unless he or she is arrested and not released on
his or her written promise to appear, his or her own recognizance,
or a deposit of bail.
Except as otherwise provided by law, all provisions of law
relating to misdemeanors shall apply to infractions including, but
not limited to, powers of peace officers, jurisdiction of courts,
periods for commencing action and for bringing a case to trial and
burden of proof.
(a) The following offenses are subject to subdivision (d) of
Section 17: Sections 193.8, 330, 415, 485, 490.7, 555, 602.13, and
853.7 of this code; subdivision (c) of Section 532b, and subdivision
(o) of Section 602 of this code; subdivision (b) of Section 25658 and
Sections 21672, 25661, and 25662 of the Business and Professions
Code; Section 27204 of the Government Code; subdivision (c) of
Section 23109 and Sections 5201.1, 12500, 14601.1, 27150.1, 40508,
and 42005 of the Vehicle Code, and any other offense that the
Legislature makes subject to subdivision (d) of Section 17. Except
where a lesser maximum fine is expressly provided for a violation of
those sections, a violation that is an infraction is punishable by a
fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
(b) Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed,
every offense declared to be an infraction is punishable by a fine
not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
(c) Except for the violations enumerated in subdivision (d) of
Section 13202.5 of the Vehicle Code, and Section 14601.1 of the
Vehicle Code based upon failure to appear, a conviction for an
offense made an infraction under subdivision (d) of Section 17 is not
grounds for the suspension, revocation, or denial of a license, or
for the revocation of probation or parole of the person convicted.
For purposes of this code, "mandatory supervision" shall mean
the portion of a defendant's sentenced term during which time he or
she is supervised by the county probation officer pursuant to
subparagraph (B) of paragraph (5) of subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
In every crime or public offense there must exist a union, or
joint operation of act and intent, or criminal negligence.
21a. An attempt to commit a crime consists of two elements: a
specific intent to commit the crime, and a direct but ineffectual act
done toward its commission.
In any criminal proceeding against a person who has been issued
a license to engage in a business or profession by a state agency
pursuant to provisions of the Business and Professions Code or the
Education Code, or the Chiropractic Initiative Act, the state agency
which issued the license may voluntarily appear to furnish pertinent
information, make recommendations regarding specific conditions of
probation, or provide any other assistance necessary to promote the
interests of justice and protect the interests of the public, or may
be ordered by the court to do so, if the crime charged is
substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of
For purposes of this section, the term "license" shall include a
permit or a certificate issued by a state agency.
For purposes of this section, the term "state agency" shall
include any state board, commission, bureau, or division created
pursuant to the provisions of the Business and Professions Code, the
Education Code, or the Chiropractic Initiative Act to license and
regulate individuals who engage in certain businesses and
This Act, whenever cited, enumerated, referred to, or amended,
may be designated simply as THE PENAL CODE, adding, when necessary,
the number of the section.