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Generally speaking, murder refers to the act of unlawfully killing another human being. Commonly confused with homicide (which is not always unlawful), murder charges are divided into two degrees. The severity of your murder charge is determined by the unique circumstances surrounding your case and arrest.
If you or a loved one is facing allegations of murder, Scott Mitchell Law Incorporated can help. We have successfully helped clients deal with complicated legal problems in more than 3,000 cases. Today, our team is confident in its ability to provide you with the topnotch defense that you need. Speak with the Modesto criminal defense attorney at the firm to discuss your case. Call (209) 529-7406!
California Murder Law
An individual must meet three criteria for an offense to be considered "murder" in California. First, the individual must cause the death of another human being. Secondly, the individual must commit the crime with aforethought and malice. An accidental killing does not always equal murder. Finally, the prosecution must demonstrate that the individual committed the act without justification or lawful excuse, such as self-defense.
First & Second Degree Murder in California
According to California Penal Code § 187, "murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought." California law differentiates between two types of murder: first and second degree. According to the law, there are specific circumstances that merit a first degree murder charge. For instance, CA law states that an individual commits first degree murder by murdering another human being with:
- A "destructive device"
- Weapons of mass destruction
- Ammunition that is designed to penetrate armor
- Ammunition that is designed to penetrate metal
An individual commits first degree murder when he/she kills another person in a way that is premeditated, deliberate, and willful. For example, a person might commit first degree murder by waiting in someone's house to kill them. The same person might be guilty of second degree murder for unlawfully killing another person as a result of heated anger or a sudden impulse.
Second degree murder includes any form of murder that does not qualify as murder in the first degree. If the killing fails to fit into the definition of first degree murder under California law, the offense will probably be charged in court as second degree murder. This offense can include situations where the perpetrator accidentally killed someone while committing another crime.
An individual could be charged with first degree murder if he/she walked into a gas station and shot the store owner. The same person could be charged with second degree murder if the bullet was only intended to scare the owner, but bounced off of the ceiling and resulted in the victim's death. Second degree murder is closely related to the California felony-murder rule.
The California Felony-Murder Rule
The California felony-murder rule makes any person liable for murder when they cause the death of another person while committing a separate, dangerous offense. Any human death that is logically related to the offense may act as a catalyst for the felony-murder rule. This rule includes accidental, negligent, and intentional killings. The California felony-murder rule applies to first and second degree murder.
Defending Against Murder Charges
Scott Mitchell Law Incorporated is prepared to stand up for your rights in court against a tough murder accusation. Murder is wrong, but criminal accusations can be complicated. Our team can help you avoid the life-changing consequences of a murder conviction. Common murder defense strategies include:
- Lack of criminal intent
- Accidental killing
If you need an aggressive defense attorney in Modesto, Stockton, Turlock, or the surrounding areas, our firm can help you obtain the favorable case outcome that you need. Call our office today for a free consultation or fill out an online case evaluation form to see what our team of Modesto criminal defense lawyer can do for you.