Murder Defense Lawyer In Los Angeles
Homicide: Murder vs. Manslaughter
To commit a "homicide" is to kill someone, either lawfully or unlawfully. Murder is not the same as homicide. Homicide includes murder, manslaughter and lawful killing. Homicide is divided into different categories. The penalty for committing a homicide depends on the circumstances surrounding the victim's death. There are five levels/types of homicide:
- First-degree murder
- Second-degree murder
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Lawful killing (justifiable killing of a suspect by a police officer).
If you have been charged with any of these crimes you need to immediately contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.
Murder is killing someone (including a fetus) with malice, traditionally called "malice aforethought." There are two types of murder: murder in the first degree and
murder in the second degree. Murder is defined in the California Penal Code under section 187. Malice means to intend to kill or cause bodily injury or to act with gross recklessness. All murders require proof of malice. First-degree murder requires malice and premeditation. Malice can be Express or Implied:
- Express malice - the defendant intends to kill the victim
- Implied malice - the defendant intends to cause serious bodily injury or to commit an act that clearly endangers life, without valid provocation.
First-degree murder is an unlawful killing that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated. "Felony murder" is also first-degree murder. Felony murder includes murder while committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary,
robbery, mayhem, carjacking, kidnapping, train wrecking,
rape, sodomy (and a variety of other
sex crimes) or a drive-by shooting. The punishment for first-degree murder is
25 years to Life.
First-degree murder with "Special Circumstances" is the highest-level homicide offense. California Penal Code section 190.2 describes these special circumstances (also referred to as "enhancements"). They include: murder for pay, murder of a police officer and murder of a child under the age of six. The penalty for first-degree murder with special circumstances is Death or Life without the possibility of Parole (LWOP).
Second-degree murder also requires malice and acting intentionally but it does not require premeditation and deliberation. Examples of Second-degree murder include:
- Using a deadly weapon or gun in a fight that results in death, without a valid defense
- Swinging a baseball bat at a victim that accidentally hits a victim in the head and results in death,
- Shooting a gun without intent to kill into a crowded room and killing someone
- Driving a car in an extremely dangerous manner that results in the death of a passenger or a fellow speeder.
The punishment for Second-degree murder is 15 years to Life.
Manslaughter is the killing of a person without malice or premeditation. Manslaughter is divided into two grading categories, voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter is the killing of another person in a "sudden heat of passion" in response to legally adequate provocation. The punishment for voluntary manslaughter is 3 to 11 years.
Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another person that is neither murder nor voluntary manslaughter but is still criminal. There are two types of involuntary manslaughter cases:
- Recklessness or Negligence - This type of involuntary manslaughter is a felony and is described as "gross" negligence or "willful and wanton" negligence. The punishment for this type of manslaughter is 2 to 4 years.
- Misdemeanor Manslaughter - Any death that occurs during the commission of a misdemeanor or unlawful act (not amounting to a felony) is misdemeanor manslaughter. The punishment for misdemeanor manslaughter is a maximum of one year in county jail.
Los Angeles Murder Attorney
In all murder/homicide cases, prosecutors will use all their resources and influence to get a conviction. Without the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, defendants in homicide cases face serious and sometimes overwhelming challenges. Any misstep in the process - pre-trial hearings, investigations, preliminary hearing, negotiations, motions, trial or sentencing - can have profound, lifelong effects for the defendant.
If you have been charged with a homicide, it might seem like the prosecutors have the advantage. Having an experienced and skilled murder attorney is critical. The right attorney can level the playing field. At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners we will put our 70 plus years of combined criminal defense experience to work for you.
Contact a Los Angeles murder lawyer
at our firm today.