Homicide charges, including manslaughter and murder, are some of the most serious criminal charges in our society. If you have been charged with homicide or murder in San Diego, you should contact an experienced private criminal defense attorney who will zealously defend your innocence. Mary Frances Prévost is an aggressive homicide and murder defense lawyer who represents defendants in state and federal courts in San Diego and the surrounding areas.
This section provides general information about murder charges in California and is not intended to constitute legal advice. If you have questions about your case, contact a reputable San Diego homicide lawyer right away.
California Penal Code § 187 defines murder as the “unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” In order to prove that someone committed murder in California, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The term “malice aforethought” is a legal concept in California that is equivalent to “premeditation” in other jurisdictions. Malice aforethought is defined as:
Depending on the seriousness of the crime, you may be charged with either first degree murder or second degree murder. These charges carry different penalties, which are discussed in greater detail below.
California is one of many jurisdictions in the United States that recognize the “felony murder” rule. This means that you can be charged with first degree murder if you or an accomplice killed someone during the commission of a dangerous felony as defined by California law, even if the killing was an accident.
California Penal Code § 189 codifies the felony murder rule, and creates liability for those who kill another human being or fetus during the commission of one of the following predicate offenses:
If you have been charged with murder on the basis of the felony murder rule, you must hire an expert San Diego murder lawyer in order to best protect your rights. Felony murder charges are complicated and require highly skilled legal representation.
Even if you are not convicted of murder, you may be facing other serious homicide charges. These include:
There are several defenses to homicide, murder, and manslaughter charges, including:
If you are convicted of first degree murder, you face 25 years to life in a California state prison. However, the sentence may be elevated to life without the possibility of parole under certain circumstances, such as if the killing involved a “hate crime.” A hate crime is defined under California law as a crime motivated by hatred that is based on “race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.”
California recognizes capital murder, which means that you may face the death penalty if a court sees your crime as particularly serious and proves certain additional elements.
If you are convicted of second degree murder, you face 15 years to life in a California state prison. Under certain circumstances, such as if you killed a peace officer, this sentence may be increased to life without the possibility of parole.
In California, murder convictions may carry additional penalties. These include, but are not limited to:
Mary Frances Prévost offers her clients years of courtroom experience, and works diligently to defend them against serious criminal charges including murder and manslaughter. If you have been charged with a homicide offense in San Diego, call her to discuss your case at (619) 692-9001. She offers free and confidential consultations.