Murder is arguably the most serious crime an individual can be accused of. This charge ranges from 2nd degree murder to 1st degree murder with special circumstance allegations. California Penal Code section 187 defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.”
Depending on the circumstances or facts surrounding the crime, prosecutors may charge those accused of either first or second degree murder. First degree murder involves a killing that involved malice and typically some amount of planning or premeditation. This differs from a second degree murder charge that occurred without planning with the killing happening in the heat of passion. While a first degree murder conviction may result in a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, special circumstances or allegations may result in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty. The killing of multiple victims, involvement in a “hate crime”, murder of a police officer or additional heinous facts surrounding the killing may warrant a death penalty enhancement.
Second degree murder involves a killing that occurs with malice, but lacks the planning and premeditation associated with a first degree murder charge. Second degree murder carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison. In the past several years the law has expanded the scope of second degree murder to include what previously was vehicular manslaughter when the defendant was under the influence. Currently every person convicted even of a first DUI in California are required to be given and to acknowledge understanding of the “Watson” advisal. This basicall states that should that person drive under the influence again and another is killed as a result of that driving, that the driver may be charged with second degree murder. The law now interprets continued driving under the influence as meeting the element of malice to justify the filing of murder charges.
The felony murder rule is a type of homicide occurring during the commission of a felony. For example, if a victim or even an accomplice is killed, even accidently during the commission of a robbery or other felony, murder charges can be filed under the felony murder rule.
As an experienced Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney, I strongly encourage anyone charged with Murder to immediately retain the services of an experienced defense attorney. Time is of the essence in protecting the rights of anyone being investigated or accused. The unbelievable stress, fear and confusion surrounding an individual being charged with a crime can sometimes lead to hasty decisions that can haunt them forever. Consequences of a conviction can include loss of employment and a permanent felony criminal record. A thorough investigation can possibly reveal mitigating factors overlooked by law enforcement's investigation. By carefully interviewing those involved often a clearer picture becomes available as to what actually occurred.
As an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney, we will carefully investigate the circumstances surrounding the allegations against you. As an aggressive defense firm, our goal is always to arrive at the best possible result for our clients.