Under Penal Code 187, California has defined murder as the unlawful killing of another human being or a fetus with malice. The individual had no regard for the human life, and they have committed an act that involved a high probability that resulted in the death of another. You can charge a murder suspect with two classifications. You have first-degree murder and second-degree murder. First-degree murder will usually carry a sentence of between 25 years to life in a state penitentiary.
When will the Prosecution Charge You with First-Degree Murder?
The prosecution will charge you with first-degree murder when the killing happens with a weapon of mass destruction, poison, torture or lying in wait for the victim. First-degree murder happens with willful and deliberate intent, and it classifies as premeditated or thought-out beforehand. All the other forms of murder fall into the second-degree murder classification, but it will still carry a sentence of up to 15 years in a state penitentiary.
What are the Legal Defenses for Murder?
Defending a client who has been accused of murder can be boiled down into a few common legal tactics. First, you might say that the defendant acted out of self-defense. For example, the other party had a firearm, and it was kill or be killed. Another defense is that the defendant was insane and acted in a way where he or she didn’t realize the consequences of her actions. The defense might also argue how the killing was an accident.
Here are some of the other legal defenses for a murder charge:
- Coerced confession
- Evidence came from an illegal search or seizure
- Tainted forensic evidence
- Mistaken identification has taken place
Starting with the Basics
Let’s begin with the basics of homicide. It happens when another person, whether lawfully or unlawfully, has killed someone. Homicide can fall into a couple different categories like manslaughter, murder and justifiable killings. Murder falls under the category of the most aggravated form of homicide, and the distinguishing factor between murder and manslaughter under California law is how murder will always have malice involved in it under the California Penal Code 187.
Capital Murder Charges
Capital murder classifies as a first-degree murder charge through special circumstances in California. Under this law, the murder suspect may face capital punishment, or they could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Capital murder can be applied to 20 separate situations that have murder involved. For example, you might have murdered someone for financial gain, murdered more than one victim, killed a police officer, judge or firefighter or you murdered a witness to keep him from testifying in court.
How Second-Degree Murder Differs
Still an equally serious charge, second-degree murder falls under the Penal Code 187. This form of murder was willful, but the perpetrator didn’t murder the victim with that intention. Some of the examples of a second-degree murder charge include a convicted DWI offender getting into an accident and killing someone. Second-degree murder might also happen when you shoot a gun into a crowded room and someone died, but you didn’t want to kill anyone. Even an unforeseeable death could lead to a murder charge.
Violation of the California Murder Laws
Before someone can be found guilty of murder, the prosecution will first have to prove three different factors. First, they will have to prove that you committed an act that led to the death of another individual. They will also have to prove malice aforethought. Finally, they will need to prove that you murdered someone without justification or lawful excuse.
Fortunately, murder has plenty of legal defenses under California law. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney could present a defense on your behalf in a variety of ways. In the cases where a justifiable or excusable murder took place, the courts will often give an acquittal. If you killed someone else because you were defending yourself, for example, the self-defense laws within the state of California could come into play. However, you will have to prove that you were in immediate danger of being killed by someone else.