It has been 25 years now that I have been defending people charged with murder under Penal Cods 187 or manslaughter under Penal Code 192.
I usually do not like to call them murder cases; I call them homicide cases. If I am trying a case and the person is charged with murder, their defense is usually going to be that they did not do it and that they are innocent, which is a justifiable homicide.
This is what ends up happening often in these cases if I do take them to trial. Obviously, you do not want to take a murder case to trial if you are guilty because the end result will likely be life in prison or so many years in prison that you can never get out.
Deciding Defense Strategy in PC 187 Murder Case
One of the first things you want to do is sit down with your attorney and decide as to whether or not you want to fight the case or whether you want to try and have your attorney resolve it in another manner.
I do not see a lot of filings for voluntary manslaughter. I usually see that as a lesser charge included with murder. An example might be if an individual became enraged with someone who had provoked him or her and ended up killing that person.
Under these circumstances, you could show it was legally adequate provocation and the defendant was acting in a heat of passion. You could get the judge to give a jury instruction that may mitigate the case down to a voluntary manslaughter.
If you are convicted of that charge versus murder, the punishment is obviously much different. The maximum for a voluntary manslaughter is 11 years and you could get as low as three years. Obviously, if someone is charged with murder and they did kill someone, it would be much better to get a voluntary manslaughter than a murder charge.
Differences Between A Homicide Case And A Manslaughter Case in California
The differences between a homicide case and a manslaughter case in California starts with the state putting the best prosecutors and best detectives on homicide cases. They are going to do all they can to convict the person. Los Angeles County is one of the biggest prosecuting agencies not just in California and in the United States, but in the world.
The government will spend money on these murder cases and attempt to get the person if they believe they killed another human being.
Manslaughter can come in different forms including voluntary manslaughter, which is when someone acts in a heat of passion provoked by another person and ends up killing that person.
Another form of manslaughter is vehicular manslaughter, which is when someone is driving a vehicle in a grossly negligent or want manners, such as running red lights or speeding and kills someone. Another form of manslaughter could be involuntary manslaughter, where someone is driving negligently on the road, runs a red light, makes a wrong turn, or accidentally goes on the opposite side of the road, and ends up killing someone.
The bottom line is whether you are charged with murder or manslaughter, you are going to need a good criminal lawyer who has experience dealing with these cases and knows how to investigate them. Our firm gets experts in these cases and we do a thorough investigation. Once we show it to the prosecutors, the case either ends up getting dismissed or mitigated down to something less.
Difference Between First And Second Degree Felony Murder Charges In California
There are a couple of differences between first and second-degree felony murder charges in California. The main difference between the two is for the premeditated first-degree murder, you have more time to think. It is more calculated and obviously more callous. It is planned out versus the second-degree murder where it is more of a quick reaction, not as deliberate, not as thought out.
There may be some thought to second-degree murder, but it is more of a spontaneous killing.
First-degree murder is premeditated murder, meaning you planned it, you thought about it, you calculated it and you made a conscious decision to kill another person and then you acted on that conscious decision.
If you are convicted of first-degree murder, the sentence is 25 to life. If you get that sentence, then you will serve 85 percent of 25 years and then you will be eligible to get out of prison. If you get convicted of first-degree murder in Los Angeles or anywhere in California, the judge must sentence you to 25 to life and has no discretion in that regard.
Second-degree murder is more of a spontaneous act. There may be a sudden quarrel or someone becomes very angry and so there is not as much thought put into it.
For purposes of the intent requirement for second-degree murder, you are still going to need to contemplate and think about it. If someone acts impulsively without contemplating it then that might be a voluntary manslaughter case.
Second-degree murder's punishment is 15 to life, a little less than first-degree murder. If you get found guilty of second-degree murder, the judge has no discretion and must give you 15 to life. You would serve 85 percent of 15 years and then you would be eligible to get out of prison.
You may not ever get out. The “to Life” part means that you could stay in jail the rest of your life depending on what the parole board decides when your 85 percent of 15 years comes up and it is time to make a decision. Contact the Hedding Law Firm for help.
For more information on Defending Murder & Manslaughter Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0979 today.