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Punishments for Murder Charges in California


Some people think that there’s only one punishment if somebody is being accused of murdering another person.  The answer to that is absolutely wrong that there’s only one punishment.  There are multiple punishments depending on the circumstances.

Sometimes someone could be being investigated or even charged with murder and then the police and the prosecutors end up being convinced by the criminal defense attorney for that person in Los Angeles that they are not guilty of murder.

Also, that they may not be able to prove that they’re guilty of murder under Penal Code 187, or that they don’t deserve the punishment associated with a first-degree murder which would be 25 to life.

First-Degree Murder Case in California

It’s a little bit deceptive though, because if you used a weapon and you hit somebody, you’re looking at potentially more time for the use of that weapon.  If you’re a gang member and it’s a first-degree murder case, in addition to the 25 to life, you’re also looking at a 10-year gang enhancement, typically.

So, it gets a little bit confusing trying to figure it out.  The bottom line is, if you’re being charged with or you’re being investigated for a murder case, all the marbles are on the line.

The next thing you could be looking at in a murder case, depending on the circumstances — if it’s a special circumstance case with life without the possibility of parole, or even in California, you could be facing the death penalty.

Let’s say for example you kill somebody in the course of a robbery, that’s a special circumstance case and the prosecutors, if they want to , can decide to seek death against you in that particular circumstance.

So, that’s pretty much the highest form of murder, but I see in Los Angeles county and throughout California and I’ve defended many clients who were facing these type of murder allegations, so obviously you want to pull out all the stops because you can bet law enforcement and the prosecutors will.

They’re going to put their best people on it.  They’re going to be seeking to get justice for family members whose loved one has passed away.

Serving 85% Of the Time for Violent Felony

So, the punishment for first-degree murder is typically 25 to life plus any enhancements that might apply, and obviously that’s something you’re going to have to discuss with your attorney.Punishments for Murder Charges in California

Second-degree murder, you’re usually looking at 15 to life.  When we talk about 25 to life or 15 to life, we’re talking about serving 85% of the time because it’s a violent felony, and after you serve 85% of 25 years or 85% of 15 years then you’re eligible for parole.

If the parole board decides not to parole you, then you can never get out.  That’s where the life part comes in.  You keep coming up for parole over and over again.

Now with the Coronavirus a lot of people that normally wouldn’t have got out who served these long sentences — 15 or 20 years — are actually getting out because they’re trying to clear the jails out.  They simply can’t hold all these people that are jammed up in the state prisons and even in the county jail.

So, second-degree murder is a 15 year to life charge and of course, any enhancements that apply could add additional time.  An enhancement could be for use of the weapon.  Enhancements could be for other charges other than the murder — robbery, arson, rape, burglary.

Other enhancements that I see a lot are gun enhancements, gang enhancements, again depending on whether somebody used a gun in a case or somebody is accused of being a gang member and actually trying to commit the crime for the benefit of a street gang.

Reduce Charges to Voluntary Manslaughter

So, that gives you first and second-degree murder.  Those are pretty much common murder scenarios we’re going to see, but that doesn’t necessary mean that every single murder prosecution has to end in 15 to life, 25 to life or even a not-guilty verdict.

Sometimes what ends up happening is the prosecutors realize they can’t convict everybody that they want to of murder or that it’s really not fair to give somebody a 15 to 25 year sentence based on what happened on the particular case.

So, they’re going to look at the facts of the case and it’s up to the defense attorney also to try to convince the prosecutors that a 15 to 25 year sentence is not fair, and if you can do that then there’s other charges that the person could plead to instead of a murder change.

For example, voluntary manslaughter.  That carries much less time than a murder case.  You might be looking at 11 years for example were you to plead guilty to a voluntary manslaughter and the prosecutors agree the 11 years is a fair sentence in your particular case and that’s not a life sentence either.

There are other different charges that could be substituted for murder depending on the circumstances of what happened.  For example, assault with a deadly weapon is a charge that I see.  That’s a strike.  That you could get a much shorter sentence.  You’d get a 6-year, a 4-year, a 2-year sentence on that.

I can just keep going.  It really depends on the circumstances of the case, but you kind of get an idea that the bottom line is this.  Just because somebody is being investigated or charged with murder doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to get the same punishment every single time.

It depends on how good their attorney is.  It depends on what they did.  It depends on what their criminal record looks like.

It depends on a lot of important factors that I talk to the clients and family members about right from the beginning of the case so we can figure out what the best angle is in this particular case — what types of things are going to make a difference and what types of things won’t make a difference.

Murder Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

I also talk to the prosecutor about it.  I’m point-blank with them.  I want to hear what they have to say about it because they have a big say in how a criminal case where a person is charged with murder is dealt with in Los Angeles county, so you might as well get their perspective.

Whether you agree with their perspective or not doesn’t really matter.  It has to do with what their perspective is, what the judge’s perspective is, what makes sense for a particular case.

That’s why there’s a very short list of attorneys that defend murder cases because like I said in the beginning, all the marbles are on the line and you want to make sure you have somebody that has a lot of experience. If you need help, pick up the phone.  As to speak to Ron Hedding and we will set up a meeting.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (213) 374-3952.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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