Los Angeles Murder Defense Attorneys
California Penal Code 187 (a)PC
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What is the Legal Definition of Murder in the State of California?
California Penal Code 187 (a) PC defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought.”
This seems fairly straightforward. However, there are some additional terms that you need to understand and that require further explanation:
Let’s begin with the basics. A “homicide” refers to the killing of another person, for any reason, whether lawful or unlawful. A homicide therefore includes murder, manslaughter, as well as justifiable killings.
“Murder” is the most severe type of homicide. It is always unlawful. What distinguishes murder from manslaughter in California law is the fact that malice is involved in a murder.
“The mental state constituting malice aforethought does not presuppose or require any ill will or hatred of the particular victim. When a defendant ‘with wanton disregard for human life, does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death,’ he acts with malice aforethought.”
Under California murder law, Penal Code 187 (a), malice may be express or implied.
Express malice means that you specifically intend to kill the victim.
Implied malice is:
- killing resulting from an intentional act;
- The natural consequences of the act are dangerous to human life; and
- the act was deliberately performed with knowledge of the danger to, and with conscious disregard for, human life.
- Both first- and second-degree murder require malice.
What is First-degree murder under California law?
Under Californialaw, there are three ways to be convicted of first-degree murder:
- By committing the murder
- using a destructive device or explosive, weapon of mass destruction, ammunition primarily designed to penetrate metal or armor, or poison, or
- by lying in wait or by inflicting torture pursuant to Penal Code 206 PC California’s torture law
- By killing in a waythat is willful, deliberate, and premeditated, OR
- By way of the felony-murder rule (that is, by committing a specifically enumerated felony that automatically turns any logically related death into first-degree murder, discussed below).
Examples of first-degree murder and murder prosecution tactics include (but are not limited to):
- going to someone’s house intending to kill him/her, and
- lying in wait for someone to return to his/her car in order to kill that individual, and
- any murder that is perpetrated using a destructive device or explosive.
What is Capital murder?
Under California law, capital murder…also referred to as first-degree murder with special circumstances…refers to first-degree murder charges that are punishable by either
- the death penalty, or
- a state prison sentence for life without the possibility of parole “LWOP”.
Capital murder applies to over 20 different situations that involve murder. These “special circumstances” that elevate first-degree murder to capital murder are listed in California Penal Code 190.2 PC and include (but are not limited to):
- murdering another for financial gain,
- murdering more than one victim,
- murdering a police officer, firefighter, prosecutor, judge, juror, or elected official,
- murdering a witness to prevent him/her from testifying,
- murdering another while committing, attempting to commit, or immediately after committing any of the felonies that subject a defendant to the first-degree felony-murder rule,
- murdering another because of his/her race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin,
- murdering another by discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle (otherwise known as a “drive-by” shooting), and
- murdering another for the benefit of a criminal street gang pursuant to Penal Code 186.22 PC.
What is Second-degree murder under California Law?
Under California Penal Code 187, second-degree murder is also willful but is not deliberate and premeditated. Second-degree murder is any murder that isn’t defined as first-degree murder.7 Examples of second-degree murder include (but are not limited to):
- shooting a gun into a crowded room and killing someone, even if that wasn’t your intention (this is also a violation of Penal Code 246.3 PC negligently discharging a firearm),8 and
- a convicted DUI offender getting drunk and causing an accident that kills another person.
This is the apex of crime. Los Angeles Murder Punishments are stringent to say the least. You could lose your freedom for life, or forfeit your life. Do not wait…
Call Stephen Brodsky Right NOW for a Free Consultation 213-228-0050
Authorities will pressure you into revealing damning information, making convicting statements, offering a guilty plea…even if you’re innocent. The sheer volume of cases motivates the entire court system to demand criminal defendants to plead guilty at the very earliest stage of a case in order to move cases along.
Protect your freedom and your record! Call NOW for a free consultation with Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Steve Brodsky before your arraignment. Your free consultation will give you strong advice into toward your case. Do not automatically plead guilty.
There will be an invitation to discuss your major fears and concerns privately with me. You will be able to ask any and all questions you feel are important to your defense. In the end, you will be confident that we will be able to get you through this crisis.
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