Types of Homicide: Murder, Manslaughter, and Justifiable Homicide

Some General Facts About Homicide Charges in California?

In almost every state, murder refers to any action that ends with you taking another person’s life and is clearly defined in the California Legislature. Additionally, practically every state (including California) has its classifications for homicide, which fall under murder, manslaughter, and justifiable homicide.

You must note, though, that if you are charged with any type of homicide in California, it’s a very severe and possibly life-changing matter. You must obtain the professional, experienced legal guidance of a San Diego homicide defense lawyer without delay.

That said, these three categories of homicide are all defined differently and require specifically designed strategies for their successful defense.

Commonly, a murder charge is broken down into several sub-categories. Usually, there are 1st & 2nd degree murder charges, with 1st degree being the most serious of all murder charges.  

If you’re charged with 1st-degree murder, you’re not only accused of killing another but also after having planned to do so.  Your act requires a level of “evil intent” (or malice) and the pre-planning of your crime.

1st-degree murder is the worst of all homicide charges and has (by far) the most severe punishments, which could include life in prison and even the death penalty.

If you’re charged with manslaughter, it’s usually in cases in which you did not plan the crime nor did you intend to kill the victim.

These charges commonly occur in accidental or unexpected circumstances where someone was killed.  Actions such as leaving a child in a hot car or having a car accident that caused a fatality.

If you’re convicted of manslaughter, depending on the specifics of your crime, your penalty could vary greatly, but they are usually less than murder in the 2nd degree (but still could include prison time).

Justifiable homicide usually involves situations where you have to kill in self-defense.  This charge still ends with the death of another, but essentially, it was necessary for your survival. This, commonly, is not a murder charge, but rather more of a “classification” that the authorities use, but really where no crime was committed. However, there are times when penalties may still apply.

Suppose you’re charged with any form of murder in California. In that case, taking chances with your freedom is never wise, so consulting with a qualified, aggressive San Diego criminal defense lawyer is mandatory to protect your rights.

In California, Do the Degrees of Homicide Differ?

Under California law, homicide is an inclusive legal term encompassing legal and illegal killings. During a war or the act of law enforcement, the outright killing of someone else might not be considered a crime; murder, however, is a form of homicide that is, in most cases, illegal and is severely punished.

There are two “degrees” of murder under California law, and these “degrees” are usually based on the specific details of your crime, as are the penalties you may face.

For example:

  • First-degree murder – This is the most severe murder charge and involves you killing another with malice. Simply said, it’s premeditated and done with deliberate intent. For this offense, you commonly are imprisoned for 25 years to life.
  • Second-degree murder – Involves intentionally killing another person, but your crime was not premeditated. Although your penalties could still be life-changing, they usually are less than 1st-degree murder.

These “degrees” of murder are significant, and, in some instances, your experienced, skillful homicide lawyer may be able to reduce your charge from 1st or 2nd-degree murder to a lesser charge. This could significantly alter your penalties and prison time. However, each case differs; the sooner you obtain professional advice, the better your outcome will be.

Voluntary Manslaughter  is a situation in which the victim was killed, but in a far less culpable manner or in the heat of passion. You could get up to 11 years in prison and possibly fines or lose some of your rights.

What Must the State Prosecutor Prove to Convict Me of Murder?

Any murder charge is legally complex and requires the experience and battle-hardened skills of an aggressive San Diego homicide lawyer. These are dire charges and could forever alter your life and future, but always remember  that the burden of proof lies with the prosecuting lawyer; they must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The prosecution must always prove that:

  • You committed the act – This “act” caused the death of another person.
  • You had a specific legal duty – You had to help, care for, rescue, maintain the property of, or perform another necessary action for your victim, and you failed to perform this act or duty.
  • By failing to do this act – This action directly caused the other person’s death.
  • You had malice aforethought – When you acted or failed to act, you exhibited a state of mind legally defined as malice aforethought and had no lawful excuse for this or its justification.

The state prosecutor has much to prove, and all must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. So, depending on your case, its details, and motivations, your experienced homicide lawyer will fight tirelessly to mount a strategic defense that may directly dispute specific facts and cast “doubt” on various aspects of the prosecutor’s case.

What is California’s New Felony Murder Law?

In 2019, California instituted a new felony murder law. Essentially, this new law lessens California’s previous law by changing the circumstances under which you (as the defendant) could be convicted of first-degree murder.

Under the old law, you could be convicted of first-degree murder if your victim died while you committed a felony. Also, it didn’t depend on whether you had any intent to kill or not.

Due to the wording in this previous law, you could face prosecution for murder despite a lack of the intention to kill or even knowing that a death had occurred.

The new felony murder rule significantly changes the definition of felony murder and dramatically reduces the possibility of you being unfairly prosecuted.

Essentially, this new law provides your homicide lawyer with a legal opportunity, if you’re convicted, to get you a much lighter sentence for your crime.

As in most states, laws are constantly changed (and the above is an example), and your San Diego homicide law team must have the experience and current knowledge needed to defend you against these severe, life-changing murder charges successfully.

I’ve Been Accused Of Murder; How Should I Proceed?

First, you must note that in California, any type of murder is a dire and severe offense, and so are its penalties.

Secondly, you must be aware that time is not on your side. To successfully defend yourself against a murder charge, you must immediately consult with a skilled, aggressive, and dedicated San Diego homicide lawyer. Doing nothing or not acting rapidly could cost you your future and freedom.

The homicide lawyers at Kersey Law have a long and proven history of successfully defending your rights in these most severe cases. Call them today for a free case consultation at (619) 432-3712 and obtain a valuable sense of security in the knowledge that you have a proven, diligent, and winning homicide law team standing firmly by your side.

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