There are three things that the prosecution must prove to convince a jury that a defendant is guilty of murder.
1. The defendant committed an act that caused the death of another person or fetus,
2. When the defendant acted, he/she had a state of mind that is known as malice aforethought,
3. The defendant killed without lawful excuse or justification.
There are two kinds of “malice aforethought,” express malice and implied malice. If the prosecution can prove either one, it will be held that you had the necessary state of mind required for murder.
The defendant will be shown to have express malice if they acted with the unlawful intent to kill. Essentially this means that the act was premeditated.
The defendant will be held to have implied malice if:
1. The defendant intentionally committed an act
2. The natural consequences of the act were dangerous to human life
3. At the time the defendant acted, he/she knew the act was dangerous to human life
4. The defendant deliberately acted with conscious disregard for human life.
A fetus is defined as an unborn human being that has progressed beyond the embryonic stage after major body parts have been outlined, which typically occurs at seven to eight weeks in development.
An act causes death provided that the death is the direct, natural, and the probable consequence of the act and the death would not have happened unless the act had been committed.
What are the different degrees of murder in California?
Los Angeles Murder cases (and all murders in California) fall under the homicide category of crimes that includes:
first-degree murder (a premeditated killing)
second-degree murder and manslaughter.
In California, even a killing that wasn’t intentional may be treated as a first-degree murder if it happened during an inherently dangerous felony, which can include rape, carjacking, robbery, arson, kidnapping, burglary or mayhem. This is called the felony-murder rule. Those are the different degrees of murder. There are different degrees of manslaughter as well.
There are three degrees of manslaughter, which carry different punishments.
- Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing that happened either because of “adequate provocation” or in an unreasonable attempt at self-defense. A voluntary manslaughter conviction carries a sentence of 3 to 11 years in prison.
- Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that happened during the commission of a misdemeanor or because of gross negligence (carelessness). Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of 2 to 4 years.
- Vehicular manslaughter is an unintentional killing thattakes placeafter an unlawful act committed while driving a motor vehicle. Vehicular manslaughter can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
A review of murder
Once again, just so you understand, here is the steps the prosecutor must take and prove in order to convict you of murder:
- that you committed an act that resulted in death to another person (or a fetus),
- that you committed the act with malice aforethought, and
- that you killed without lawful excuse or justification.
This is a very serious matter that could cost you your freedom for the rest of your life…or cost you your life itself.
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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.
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