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Second-Degree Murder in California

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Apr 28, 2023

For those people who are charged with California Penal Code 187 PC second-degree murder, they're facing a sentence of 15 to life.  If they're charged with additional charges on top of the second-degree murder or any enhancements, they may face more than a 15-to-life charge.

For example, if you shoot somebody and hit them with a bullet, that is a 25-year enhancement that can be tacked on the back of the murder charge. 

If you're a gang member and the crime is committed because of gang activity or to benefit a street gang, that could be an additional 10-year enhancement. Other charges can be filed, so those charged with this type of offense face many years in prison.  

Trying to figure out how these cases work is crucial.  Usually, you want to start at the investigative phase because that's where the police put their best offices, usually from robbery/homicide, to investigate the case. 

They'll come to the crime scene – whether it's a shooting, a stabbing, or some other murder modality – and look at everything:

  • They will take photographs;
  • They'll see if there's any DNA or ballistic evidence;
  • Then they'll start getting even more profound and look for ping evidence.

If they have potential suspects, they can see if those suspect's phones ping in the location of the shooting, stabbing, or whatever happens in a particular case.

Retain a Defense Lawyer

So, the earlier you get a criminal defense attorney on the case, the better for you because that attorney can start doing some investigating as well to try to make sure that once the prosecutors file the case, the defense is ready to go. So we don't miss or lose anything.  So, that's another crucial thing – the investigative phase. So, it would be best if you got your attorney right away.

Filing Deputies

Once the case has been thoroughly investigated, then it will be sent to the prosecutors, and they're going to review everything and they will decide whether or not to file a case. 

They have specific filing deputies that look at charges – severe murder cases. So they've got the experience to decide whether or not there's enough evidence to proceed with the matter.

People get confused about the fact that the police don't file cases; prosecutors do.  Another thing that will happen in a murder case is that bail is typically a minimum of a million dollars. 

If there are more charges, it can go higher than that.  They're going to arrest the person charged with murder.  They'll arrest them at the scene if they're caught at the scene, or they will try to track them down at their home, work, or wherever they are. 

Arraignment and Bail

As I've indicated, the person will be arrested and taken into custody, and bail will be set – usually somewhere north of a million dollars.

Within a couple of days, if the person is in custody and doesn't bail out, they'll appear in court.  It will be in whatever court has jurisdiction over the matter.  A county and different cities and different courthouses usually designate it. 

They'll figure out which one it goes to.  Once you have your attorney, that attorney will appear at the arraignment.  The bail will be argued at that point. After that, any motions can be filed regarding bail. 

Discovery and Review of Case Details

Also, the attorney will be given all of the discovery in the case, and then they can enter a plea of not guilty, argue the bail, and set a new court date. I then investigate the case.  I talk to the client about it. 

I go through all of the discovery.  I speak to the prosecutor about it to get a complete idea of the case's strength and what evidence they're trying to use so that the client and I can discuss it and determine the best strategy.

Preliminary Hearing

The next significant event usually occurs the preliminary hearing if you're going to fight the case; otherwise, I will meet with the supervisors to try to negotiate and work out something.

Second-Degree Murder in California

Many times I get mitigation evidence if that's the case.  If not, at the preliminary hearing, the prosecutors have to call the witnesses that prove the case. 

At that point, I will be in a position to be able to cross-examine each of the witnesses and see if we can get the case dismissed if they can't prove all of the elements or at least damage the case so if it does go to trial, we've done everything we can leading up to the trial. 

The preliminary hearing is a crucial stage of the proceedings because you get an opportunity as a defense attorney to ask questions of all the witnesses and try to get testimony that might support your theory of the case moving forward.

Second-degree murder is a severe charge.  You want to get the best defense attorney you can find.  I've been doing this for over 30 years.  In the early 1990s, I began defending people for second-degree murder charges. Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.