San Diego Homicide Attorneys Fighting for Our Clients’ Futures
Being charged with murder or manslaughter isn’t something most people think they will ever experience, but sometimes, people get put in impossible positions. No matter what the circumstances of your arrest were, we believe that every defendant is deserving of a thorough defense and has a strong legal team behind them advocating for their rights throughout the criminal justice process. Find out more about homicide charges and what they could mean for your future below.
Facing a homicide charge can be an overwhelming experience, and it’s normal to feel scared about what this could mean for your future. The truth is that these are very serious charges, and they do have the potential to change the entire course of your life. But it’s also important to remember that a homicide charge isn’t the same as a conviction, and there may be options. At Kersey Law, we’re not afraid of taking on big cases, and this includes helping clients navigate the realities of being charged with homicide. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how we approach these cases and what we can do for you.
How Is Homicide Different From Murder or Manslaughter?
You’ve probably heard the terms homicide, murder, and manslaughter all used when someone is killed, but what’s the difference? You can think of homicide as the more general category for when one person is responsible for killing another. Murder and manslaughter are two different charges under the umbrella of homicide. Murder is when the homicide was intentional and is used in cases where a homicide was premeditated or otherwise had “malice aforethought,” which is the legal term for intent.
In contrast, manslaughter is when one person kills another, but the same level of intent or premeditation isn’t there. An example of this is the charge of vehicular manslaughter. This may be brought against a person if they were driving under the influence, wrecked into another car, and killed the other driver. They didn’t do so intentionally, so it isn’t murder, but it’s still a homicide.
What Is the Maximum Sentence for Someone Convicted of a Homicide?
Homicide is a felony charge, which can mean the defendant faces a long prison sentence if convicted. However, the maximum sentence allowed by California law depends on the type of charge. For example, first-degree murder carries a possible life sentence without the possibility of parole and is considered the most serious of the homicide charges. Involuntary manslaughter is at the other side of the spectrum, and the maximum sentence for this conviction is up to 4 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and felony probation.
Clearly, the charges and penalties can vary so dramatically within the category of homicide, which is why it’s important to talk to an attorney about your case. You can find out what your charges mean, the potential penalties, and what defense strategies you may be able to use. Keep in mind that these are the maximum penalties, and it’s very common for defendants to receive lower sentences — especially if the person doesn’t have a prior criminal record.
What If I Acted in Self-Defense?
Acting in self-defense can be a valid defense strategy for homicide charges in California. In general, in the United States, you have the right to defend yourself using appropriate force if you feel that your life is in danger. While California doesn’t have “stand your ground” laws, it does have the “castle doctrine.” This means that you are able to use force — including deadly force — to protect your life and property. However, this doesn’t give a person carte blanche to kill someone who comes onto their property. In using this defense, the amount of force used generally needs to be proportionate to the potential harm a reasonable person would have feared.
Let’s break this down a bit. If a person comes onto your front lawn and is shouting at you and threatening you but doesn’t approach and isn’t armed, killing them would probably not be in proportion to the threat. However, if the person was brandishing a gun or knife and waving it around or advancing toward you, deadly force could be in proportion to the threat.
Is It Possible to Avoid a Trial?
Homicide cases are notoriously long and can take years from arrest to conclusion. It can take months before a trial can even be scheduled, and it’s not unusual for homicide trials to take several weeks due to the amount of evidence that needs to be heard from both sides. After both sides have rested, the jury is then tasked with deciding the outcome, and this can also be a lengthy process, as jurors must carefully weigh all the evidence they heard and ensure they are making decisions in line with what the law requires. And during all of this, the defendant may have to be in custody, so it’s easy to see why someone may be interested in avoiding a trial.
In general, the only way to avoid a trial is to enter a guilty plea. You could plead guilty to the original charge, or you may be able to work out a plea deal with the prosecution for a lesser charge or more lenient sentence. Plea bargains can be tempting and in some cases a valid option, but they must be entered into very carefully. Pleading guilty to a felony charge isn’t something to do lightly, and you should consult with an attorney about this option before moving forward.
Call our San Diego office today at 619-432-3712 to speak to a member of our team. If you decide to go forward with hiring our firm, we can get started on your case right away, including working on whether you may be eligible for bail and helping you decide what plea to enter. Our legal team is here to help. Call today to schedule your consultation with a criminal defense attorney to find out more.