California Murder Defense – Justifiable Homicide – Resisting Attempt to Commit Felony
It has to do with justifiable homicide which is a way to potentially argue if you have a murder charge pending in Los Angeles County that the killing was lawful. It has to do with the homicide is justifiable and not unlawful when committed by any person who is resisting an attempt to commit a forcible and atrocious crimes.
This really has to do with a situation where someone is committing a felony against you or in your presence and you use some sort of force in resisting that felony and the person ends up dying.
Committing a Forcible and Atrocious Crime
This to me is a very tricky area because typically the defenses to murder and to be able to say it's a justifiable homicide or self-defense or defense of others — never defense of property — but this is a little carved out area having to do with being able to justify a homicide.
And even in the use notes of the jury instruction, they're putting law in there. For example, by its terms the Penal Code Section 187 which appears to permit killing to prevent any felony — even though it says that the notes of the jury instruction and there's case law that warns that in view of the large number of felonies today and the inclusion of many that do not involve a danger of serious bodily harm — a literal reading of this section is undesirable.
I think what they're trying to say is, just because someone's committing a felony in your presence is not going to permit you to kill them. It has to be some sort of a horrible and atrocious felony and a dangerous felony. But even then, I certainly, as a criminal defense attorney having done this for twenty-five years, would caution because you obviously don't want to find yourself on the wrong end of a murder charge.
Murder was Justifiable
This is how these murder cases have to be evaluated if you want to try to defend them properly. First you have to look at whether or not any of the defenses apply. Then after that, there is the angle that the homicide or the murder was justifiable.
And to me, when you say murder, you're talking about somebody who kills somebody with malice of forethought. That person is looking at twenty-five to life and depending on how they killed the person they may be looking at more time
When you talk about homicide, that to means a killing occurred but it was a lawful killing, and certainly when you tack on the word justifiable homicide in front of the homicide, then you're saying that it was justified.
What I think it will boil down to having tried many murder cases over the course of a long career is reasonableness. If someone is acting reasonable while another person is committing a felony, then that person will be protected. A perfect example is, law enforcement face danger all the time.
If they come on somebody who is either committing a felony or in the process of not obeying their laws and that person pulls out a weapon, the police are certainly going to be justified in pulling out their weapons.
If they believe under the circumstances that person could commit some sort of great bodily harm or death to them or somebody around them, then they would be justified in shooting that person and we see this occurring all the time on the streets of Los Angeles.
But more and more, people are actually capturing these incidents on video tape. So, what the police and prosecutors are looking at is whether the law enforcement officers involved in a killing acted reasonably under the circumstances in order to justify that killing.
So, if you've got a situation where either you or a loved on is charged with murder because the prosecutors think the killing was not justifiable, but you believe it was, you're going to have to sit down with someone like me.
Consult with Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
I've been doing this for over twenty-five years, worked for the DA's office, worked for a Superior Court judge and have been practicing criminal defense since 1994, having handled many murder cases and knowing the ins and outs on how to deal with these cases.
This little area that I'm talking about is basically a situation where somebody is committing some sort of a serious felony in your presence ad you act reasonably during the commission of that felony and the person ends up dying.
Now, the police want to charge you with a murder, you may be able to make the argument that you were resisting that person attempting to commit a felony, you were acting reasonable under the circumstances, and therefore, the death was a justifiable homicide versus a murder.