My title may sound a little extreme, but the bottom line is that most people convicted of murder in California go to prison for life. It could be 15 to life; it could be 25 to life, or it could be more.
California Penal Code 187 PC is the statute that defines the crime of murder as the unlawful killing of someone or a fetus with malice aforethought.
First-degree murder charges are typically filed if the killing was willful, deliberate, and premeditated. Simply put, the act was intentional, such as driving to a person's home with the intent to kill them. It also includes a scenario where someone dies during a rape, carjacking, robbery, or other serious crime.
You could also face first-degree murder if the killing involved a destructive device or explosive, using ammunition to penetrate armor, or lying in wait.
In cases where murder didn't involve premeditation, it will usually be charged as a second-degree murder carrying a sentence of 15 years to life in prison if convicted.
Second-degree murder is any murder that doesn't fall under the category of first-degree murder. Capital murder is first-degree murder with special circumstances, including the killing of/for:
- police officer or firefighter;
- witness, prosecutor, judge;
- based on their race or religion;
- benefit of a gang
- drive-by shooting;
- financial benefit;
- multiple people.
Our California criminal defense lawyers will examine this subject in greater detail below.
What Are the Best Defenses to Avoid a Life Sentence?
On the crucial issue of investigating murder cases, they put the best law enforcement detectives on these types of cases. They also assign the best prosecutors to the case to ensure they get the conviction.
What ends up happening is, once you serve whatever your base sentence is, or at least 85% of it, you're then eligible for parole, and you come up each year for parole, but a lot of times, the parole board will not let people out, so they end up spending the rest of their life in prison.
There are all kinds of examples of this that I won't go into, but the query is, how do you avoid going to prison for the rest of your life?
Let me give you some ideas and examples of cases that I've represented and been successful in when somebody's charged with murder and avoided a life sentence.
Not Guilty Verdict at a Jury Trial
One of the most obvious ways to avoid a life sentence for murder is to go to trial and be found not guilty. If you're found not guilty, not only do you not go to prison for life, but you also get out of custody, and you can move on with your life.
A significant factor to consider is whether or not it's the type of case that should go to trial. Does the prosecutor have the evidence necessary to prove the PC 187 murder case?
We need to determine whether or not it's the type of case you want to fight at a jury trial or if it's the type of case you want your attorney to mitigate and get a resolution you could live with.
So, that will take the best possible criminal defense attorney, someone like me who's been doing this for 30 years. I've worked for the District Attorney's office since the early 1990s.
I've worked for a Superior Court Judge. I worked for the State Bar of California, and I've been a criminal defense attorney defending people just like you for charges of murder.
I think the second case that I ever did in my career was a case where my client was charged with murder. I got a not guilty verdict and showed how you could avoid that life sentence.
Negotiation with the Prosecution
Another way to avoid a life sentence in a murder case is to negotiate a deal where you don't go to prison for life. Other charges can be substituted in for the murder charge. For example:
There's a whole slew of different charges that can be used instead of a murder charge. Of course, that will take convincing the prosecutor to change the charge. The judges can't change the charge.
They control the sentence, but they can't change the charge. In a murder case, if you end up pleading guilty and you're trying to get around the prosecutors and go to the judge, the judge is going to be limited because they are not going to be able to give something other than 25 to life on a first-degree murder charge.
Judge Gives an Alternate Charge
Another way that I've seen people avoid a life sentence in a murder case is if the judge gives an alternate charge to the jury instead of murder.
For example, if the judge gave the murder charge that the prosecutors were seeking but gave a voluntary manslaughter charge, for instance, if the defense was asking for it or if the facts warranted it. The jury returned guilty of voluntary manslaughter but not guilty on the murder charge. Then obviously, you're going to avoid a life sentence because you can't get life for a voluntary manslaughter charge.
Contact Murder Defense Professionals
So, I've given you some examples of where someone can avoid a life sentence if charged with murder. There are other examples and angles, but we have to sit down and discuss the case and figure out what makes sense in your circumstance.
In other words, we must look at the facts and details and make them particular to our situation. Otherwise, we will not be able to give you an accurate solid analysis.
If you or a family member has a murder case, you need help from a defense professional. You're trying to find the best; get someone like me who's done over 250 jury trials, handled countless murder cases, and won cases all over Los Angeles County and surrounding counties. I've handled cases all over the place.
So, if you need the best, you or a loved one is charged with murder anywhere in California, pick up the phone now. Make the call.
Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation. Contact us by phone or the contact form.