Murder

MURDER (Penal Code §187)

No criminal charge carries as much gravity as a murder charge. A charge of murder demands the immediate assistance of an experienced and dedicated Orange County murder defense attorney. While every case is different, a murder charge has the potential to end in a lifetime behind bars. It is essential that anyone charged with this crime carefully choose his or her defense attorney. A poor defense will usually result in a poor outcome.

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Murder under Penal Code section 187 is the unlawful killing of another person with either 1) the express intention to kill that person or 2) when the death results from an intentional act that clearly presented a danger to other persons and was committed with the knowledge that the act was dangerous but with disregard of that danger.

The first circumstance is self-explanatory but the second circumstance can be better understood by an example. A common example is the shooting of a gun towards the sky to celebrate a particular event. A person celebrating in this manner should reasonably know the inherent danger of the act. Should he or she decide to shoot the gun despite the danger and should a stray bullet hit and kill someone, it is an act of murder even though the shooter had no intention of killing anyone. This example would be charged as second degree murder

First degree murder is willful and deliberate and requires premeditation (evidence of planning). In other words, first degree murder requires evidence of a calculated decision to kill, even if that decision is made in a very short amount of time. It is manslaughter, not murder, when the decision to kill is made rashly, impulsively, or without careful consideration.

There are many viable defenses to murder. Each of those defenses is based on the facts of the individual case along with the more obvious defense of self-defense or the defense of others. Other defenses includes the heat of passion scenario wherein there was not the intent to kill but rather the act was impulsive and unplanned (voluntary manslaughter) or perhaps the evidence argues that the murder was an accident. In cases where the evidence of murder is clear, an experienced murder defense lawyer in Orange County can often secure second degree murder conviction rather than a first degree conviction, or argue that certain circumstances (such as hate crimes) were not present, which can result in a considerably less severe sentence.

SENTENCING

First degree murder is punished by 25 years to life imprisonment in state prison. Murders that were predicated on hate (for example, murders motivated by hatred of the victim's race, religion, or sexual orientation) carry a term of life without the possibility of parole. The same is true if the murder victim is a peace officer. If charged with special circumstances (these are listed in Penal Code §190.2), a first degree murder can be charged as a capital murder and if convicted, can result in the death penalty.

A second degree murder conviction carries a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment in state prison. Certain circumstance can increase the sentence, for example, if the murder is a "drive-by" shooting or if the defendant had previously served a prison term for murder. Furthermore, the sentence can be enhanced (additional years to the base term) if convicted of murder while personally using a firearm or if the murder is gang related. An Orange County murder defense lawyer can help you try to prevent a sentence enhancement.

California Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog - Murder