Homicide is an unlawful or lawful act of killing another person. It’s a severe offense in California. Homicide may occur from your negligent behavior or accidentally when you had no intent to commit the crime. However, the prosecutor cannot file a homicide charge against you. The law groups homicide under two main categories, murder, and manslaughter crimes. The murder crimes include attempted murder and 1st-degree and 2nd-degree murders.

Alternatively, manslaughter charges include voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter. The penalties for the above crimes vary based on your case's circumstances. Also, aggravating factors will result in harsher penalties. However, you can still fight the charges for the above crime. If you are in Los Angeles, CA, hire a well-skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorney will play a critical role in challenging the evidence presented before the court by the prosecution team.

At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we will do everything to ensure you win your case. After accepting your case, we will work tirelessly and build the strongest defense possible, considering all potential witnesses and evidence. Our target is to obtain the best legal results for our clients. Therefore do not hesitate to reach us as soon as you face charges for the above homicide cases.

Overview of Homicide Charges in California

When you face a homicide charge, you face accusations of taking somebody else's life. The homicide charges are complex in California and fall into varied categories based on the offender's intent. In California, homicide charges fall under two main types, murder charges and manslaughter charges. Every charge is different and comes with different penalties. The following are the crimes categorized as homicide in California:

  1. Murder Charges

In California, murder charges carry more severe than manslaughter charges since they involve “malice aforethought.” It means you intend to kill someone else or engage in actions that disregard human life. Usually, murder charges involve premeditation. Premeditation consists of a plan to engage in the crime before committing it.

Below is a brief of the various homicide charges you might face in California. Since each crime is unique and different, they carry different severe penalties. Remember, once you face a conviction for homicide charges, you will find it challenging to secure a job in the future. So, it is recommended you work closely with your criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges.

Attempted Murder – California PC 664

Attempted murder in California is considered wishing, attempting, or contemplating killing someone else. However, before you face conviction for the crime, the prosecution team must prove all the elements of the crime. The elements of the crime include:

You Had the Intent to “Kill”

The main element of attempted murder is intent. It requires you to have a plan or target to kill a person. The prosecutor can use the circumstance surrounding the case to prove your intent. For instance, injuries on the upper parts of the victim, like the head, can be used as circumstantial evidence.

You intended to Kill a “Fetus or Person”

Intent to kill is considered different from planning to kill someone. For instance, when you plant a bomb to kill your wife but accidentally kill another person, you will still face charges for attempted murder to kill your spouse.

What are the Penalties for Attempted Murder in California?

California PC 664 outlines the penalties for attempted murder. The state’s law considers the crime a felony under first-degree attempted murder and 2nd-degree attempted murder. The punishment and penalties also vary based on the degree of the crime.

  • First Degree Attempted Murder

In California, you will face charges for first-degree attempted murder when the attempted murder was willful, deliberate, and premeditated. So, you will face the following penalties:

  • State imprisonment

  • A fine not exceeding $10,000

  • Victim restitution

  • A strike on your criminal history

  • You will not be allowed to own a firearm

  • 2nd Degree Attempted Murder

The type of murder is not willful, deliberate, or premeditated. When you face conviction for the crime, you will serve the following penalties:

  • Victim restitution

  • A fine of up to $10,000

  • You will lose your rights to possess, acquire or own a firearm

  • State imprisonment for a period between 5, 7, and 9 years

Potential Defenses for Attempted Murder

Although the penalties for the crime are harsh, you still have an opportunity to fight the charges. However, you want to work closely with your criminal defense attorney. The attorney will examine your situation to develop the best strategy to win your case. Your attorney may use the following legal defenses to protect your rights:

  • You acted in self-defense

  • You did not have the intent to kill the alleged victim

  • Illegal seizure and search

  • Mistaken identity

  • False accusation

First Degree Murder

First-degree murder is the willful or intentional act of taking the life of a fetus or a person. The crime is a felony in nature. According to the law, first-degree murder will occur when someone is killed during violent crimes like arson, kidnapping, rape, or robbery. The elements of the crime include:

The Act of Your Killing Was Premeditated, Deliberate, Willful, and Illegal

Your intent to kill another person doesn’t necessarily need to be on the initial victim. For instance, when you kill the wrong person, the criminal court will still consider your actions as 1st-degree murder. Also, the prosecutor will rely on circumstantial evidence to determine whether your actions were premeditated or deliberate.

You Ended Life While Committing a Felony Offense

The law allows you to face a first-degree murder charge when you engage or commit first-degree murder while carrying out a felony offense. So, when you kill someone else while committing the following crimes, you must face charges for first-degree murder:

  • Carjacking

  • Arson

  • Mayhem

  • Torture

  • Robbery

  • Burglary

  • Sexual penetration with a foreigner by use of force

  • Kidnaping

  • Unlawful behaviors of sodomy

  • Lewd actions with a child

The Penalties for First Degree Murder

When you face conviction for this crime, you will become subject to the following penalties:

  • You will remain in state prison for a period above twenty years

  • The likelihood of a life sentence

  • Death

Put in mind, you may obtain incarceration without a death sentence or parole under certain special situations. The court will consider the following when deciding whether to impose the sentence:

  • When you engaged in the crime while committing a felony offense

  • If you used a bomb

  • You committed the crime while resisting a legal arrest

  • Whether you intended to kill the alleged victim for financial gains

The Legal Defenses for First Degree Murder in California

You might use several lawful defenses to fight your first-degree murder charge. For instance, you may start by arguing you did not engage in the crime and instead, the police wrongly arrested you. However, it would be best if you worked closely with your criminal defense attorney for the best outcomes for your case. Also, speak with your attorney as early as possible. By doing so, they will have enough time to develop their defense strategy. The following are the other possible defenses you might use to fight the charge:

  • Mistaken identity

  • You accidentally killed the alleged victim

  • Insanity

Second Degree Murder

You commit the crime when you illegally kill a victim without a plan. The crime is outlined under California PC 187. The major difference between 1st and 2nd-degree murder is, under 1st-degree murder, the offender has a plan to commit the crime. Like in other cases, the prosecution team must prove the elements of the crime. The following are the main elements of second-degree murder:

  • You Committed the Crime Willfully

The prosecutor must establish you willfully committed the crime. Also, they must prove you committed the crime willfully without the influence of another person. Again, the prosecutor must link your willful act with the alleged victim's death.

Proving this element might be a challenging step. However, the prosecutor may use evidence, including witness testimonials, to build the case. The criminal courts in California accept witness testimonials to be used as a way to prove the crime. The prosecutor also needs to present phone recordings or surveillance from the nearby people during the commission of the crime.

  • You Did Not Plan the Unlawful Killing

The prosecutor must show you did not plan the alleged killing. It will be challenging for the prosecutor to prove you had no plan to commit the crime. The fact is that they will have to study your behavior before the commission of the crime. Note the prosecution team must use the available circumstantial evidence to support their claim.

  • Your Unlawful Behavior Directly Caused the Death of the Alleged Victim

According to the law in California, the prosecutor must link your actions with the victim's death to ensure no blame goes to the third party. If the victim had a preexisting condition before the crime, the prosecutor must show the condition did not result in the death.

The Penalties of Second Degree Murder

After the prosecution team proves the crime elements, the criminal court jury or judge will impose the potential penalties. Remember, the court considers second-degree murder a felony offense. Depending on the case's circumstance, a conviction for the offense will come with imprisonment for at least 15 years. Before the judge issues the sentence, they will consider whether you have to aggravate and mitigate factors. Remember aggravating factors are going to attract severe sentence enhancement. Alternatively, mitigating factors may reduce your sentence. The common aggravating factors in the case include:

  • Killing a government peace officer

  • Having a prior criminal history

  • Shooting a moving vehicle led to the death of the occupants

What are the Legal Defenses for 2nd Degree Murder?

The judge will allow you to defend your charges during your case trial. During this time, your criminal defense attorney will have a chance to present counterarguments to help challenge the prosecutor's evidence. Raising a persuasive defense will more likely lead to the acquittal of your case or lead to a significant reduction of your charges. The following are the possible defenses your criminal defense attorney may use:

  • You are subject to mistaken identity.

  • You were acting in self-defense.

  1. Manslaughter Charges

As mentioned above, manslaughter charges come with harsh penalties and punishment, but they are significantly mitigated compared to murder charges. They are serious charges nonetheless. You face manslaughter charges when you take another person's life due to your negligent actions. You will be more likely to charge these charges when you accidentally cause death due to your negligence. Although the charges are less severe when compared to murder cases, you will remain behind bars for an extended period pay high fines, among other penalties. The following are homicide cases classified as manslaughter charges:

Voluntary Manslaughter

In California, voluntary manslaughter involves taking another person's life without premeditation, malice aforethought, and deliberations. When you intentionally take another person's life in the state, you will face voluntary manslaughter or murder charges. However, the prosecutor will have to prove the following main elements of the crime:

Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing Voluntary Manslaughter

When the court finds you guilty of voluntary manslaughter, you will remain behind bars for three, six, or eleven years. When charged with voluntary manslaughter, you will face the following penalties:

  • A fine not exceeding $10,000

  • Labor services or community restitution

  • A strike on your criminal record

  • You will lose your rights to possess or own a firearm

  • Attend counseling programs like anger management class

The criminal court judge will consider mitigating and aggravating factors to set up your penalties. Mitigating factors will lead to a reduction in your charge. These factors include lack of previous criminal records, age, admission to the offense, and mental capacity.

Alternatively, aggravating factors will result in a harsh criminal conviction. The criminal court judge will consider your case's circumstances, the nature of the offense, and your criminal record.

The Potential Defenses for Voluntary Manslaughter

With the help of a well-skilled criminal defense attorney, you have the opportunity to fight the charges. For instance, the attorney may argue you committed the offense due to self-defense. According to California law, you have the right to use force in an event to defend yourself or when another person's life is in danger. However, it would help to use the appropriate force when carrying out self-defense. Also, the attorney can use other defenses to fight your charges. The defenses are:

  • Insanity

  • You committed the crime by accident.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter involves killing another person either by lack of due caution or negligence. Before you face conviction for the crime, the prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime. The elements include:

  • Your conduct caused the death of the alleged victim

  • Your actions that led to the victim's death occurred during the commission of an infraction or misdemeanor crime.

  • You are guilty of criminal negligence, which resulted in the victim's death.

For the involuntary manslaughter charges to remain, you must have committed something wrong or illegal. However, the unlawful should not be something particularly egregious. It must be a minor or mere infraction or a less serious misdemeanor. Regardless of what you did during the commission of the crime, the prosecutor must show you exercised negligence.

Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter

When you face conviction for involuntary manslaughter, you will more likely face the following:

  • A fine of up to $10,000

  • Formal probation

  • State imprisonment between two to four years

The crime would attract a strike if you possessed a firearm during the commission of the crime. Remember, the conviction for this crime will not prevent you from civil tort action. So, full restitution inflicted on the victim's family may apply.

What are the Potential Defenses for Involuntary Manslaughter?

The victim's family, police, and the prosecutor may assume guilt where it does not exist. These parties may push for punishment and penalties against you because you were present during the commission of the crime. That’s why you need to fight the charges through the legal help of your criminal defense attorney. The attorney may use the following legal defenses:

  • You Acted on Self Defense and Defense for Others

Self-defense is one of the common defenses you may use to fight any homicide charge. But for the defense to be valid, you must prove you reasonably believed you or another person's life was in danger through robbery, rape, death, or severe bodily injuries. If this is your case, the court will consider dropping your charges.

  • False Accusation

It might happen that the friends or family of the alleged victim doesn’t want to expose the role the victim played during the commission of the crime. Therefore, they may decide to blame others. It is true they may even accuse you falsely to avoid the charges when your defense attorney can show this before the court. The criminal court judge will decide to drop or reduce the charges.

  • Accidental Death

As the name indicates, involuntary death occurs by an accident since no intent is involved in the crime. The accident defense will be valid when your defense attorney can support their claim.

  • Lack of Sufficient Evidence

As discussed above, the prosecutor must have enough evidence before you face a conviction for involuntary manslaughter. Maybe little evidence exists against you, and the law enforcement officers want to take a shot on that. So, you will have a legal defense when this is your case.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter involves demising someone else as you operate a vehicle by recklessly engaging in illegal actions that don’t amount to a felony in the state. The crime is treated differently from murder. The prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime before you face conviction. The elements are:

  • Your actions were more than ordinary negligence

  • You committed a misdemeanor which can amount to an infraction in California

  • Your negligent action resulted in the death of the victim

  • Your behavior was risky to others under prevailing circumstances

In California, the law considers infractions a lower-level charge than a misdemeanor. Ordinary negligence means you did not observe reasonable care while committing the crime. This means you never acted with reasonable care to avoid causing death to the victim.

The Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter

The crime is considered a wobble in the state. The prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or a felony. You must note that the court will consider your past criminal record and the nature of your case to classify your charge. When filled as a misdemeanor, you will serve misdemeanor probation and pay a fine not exceeding $1,000. Alternatively, when a felony, you will serve felony probation and remain in a state jail for 2,4, or 6 years. Lastly, you will pay a fine of up to $10,000.

What are the Legal Defenses for Vehicular Manslaughter?

As a driver on California roads, it is possible to face vehicular manslaughter. While operating a vehicle, you may make an abrupt decision and result in an accident. However, you should work with a criminal defense attorney conversant with California laws to have a successful defense. The attorney will first examine your case, gather evidence, and develop a strong defense mechanism to help you win the case. The following are the possible defenses your attorney may use:

  • There were no negligence actions during the commission of the crime

  • The alleged victim did not die as a result of the driver's negligence

  • You were not the direct cause of the victim's death

  • You faced an emergency and acted with the care a reasonable person would have shown

  • You were not the person operating the vehicle during the commission of the vehicle

  • Insufficient evidence

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

When you face homicide charges in California, you might be confused about what to do next. That’s why it's recommended you seek legal help from a well-skilled criminal defense attorney. The attorney will evaluate your case and develop the best defense strategy to help you fight the charges.

At Foos Gavin Law Firm, our attorneys have represented numerous people facing homicide charges. We do what it deserves to ensure our clients obtain the best possible outcomes in their case. When the police arrest you in Los Angeles, CA, over homicide charges, call us right away. Contact us at 916-779-3500 and speak with one of our criminal defense.