Were You Charged with California Crime Murder Under Penal Code 187?

Murder is the most serious criminal charge a defendant can be prosecuted for in the state of California.  If you or one of your family members have been charged with murder in Santa Barbara County or Ventura County, it is of critical importance that you contact a highly experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately.

Experienced Criminal Attorneys Handling Murder Charges in Ventura County

If you or a loved one was arrested for murder in California, do not wait to begin reviewing your case with the aggressive trial attorneys of The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC.  When the charges are this complex and have such serious repercussions, it is absolutely vital to begin assessing the evidence and analyzing the details of the case as soon as possible.

The California murder attorneys of The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC have over 20 years of experience handling homicide charges in Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta, and beyond.  Call us as soon as possible at (805) 643-5555 for a free, completely confidential legal consultation regarding your charges.  We are here to fight for you, guide you through California’s court system, and protect your legal rights.

How is Murder Different from Manslaughter?

Murder and manslaughter are both examples of homicide, a broad term which describes the taking of a human life.  However, there are two key factors that distinguish murder from manslaughter and other forms of homicide:

  • The intent behind the offense, which relates to the circumstances surrounding the act.
  • The severity of the penalties which may be imposed upon a defendant who is convicted.

Murder is charged under Cal. Penal Code § 187(a) when, allegedly, a defendant commits an “unlawful killing… with malice aforethought.”  Murder cases are extremely nuanced, but in simplified terms, acting with “malice aforethought” means acting “with a wanton disregard for human life [in doing] an act that involves a high degree of probability [of resulting in] death.”  Such malice may be:

  • Express – A defendant acts with express malice when he or she acts with “deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature.”
  • Implied – A defendant acts with implied malice when he or she acts with “no considerable provocation, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.”

By comparison, the crime of manslaughter, which is charged under a separate statute (Cal. Penal Code § 192), involves acting “upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion” or “without due caution and circumspection.”  Manslaughter does not involve an element of malice.

California Penalties for Murder: Felony Prison Sentencing

There are three classes of crime in California: misdemeanors, felonies, and “wobblers,” which are crimes that can fall into either category.  Murder is a felony, the most serious kind of criminal offense under California’s laws.  However, there are several subcategories of murder:

  • Capital Murder – Also called “first degree murder with special circumstances,” this offense can be charged for, allegedly, committing murder:
    • As a hate crime.
    • For financial gain.
    • In order to silence a witness.
    • Of multiple victims.
    • Of a police officer, judge, firefighter, or member of other specified professions.
  • First Degree Murder – Charged when, allegedly, the defendant commits murder in a way that involves:
    • Torturing the victim.
    • Using poison, a weapon of mass destruction, or an explosive device.
    • Waiting for the victim.

First degree murder can also be charged when the defendant allegedly acts intentionally and with premeditation, or violates California’s felony-murder rule, which allows accomplices to be charged with murder when the death occurs during or as a result of the commission of a dangerous felony.

  • Second Degree Murder – Charged whenever a murder offense does not meet the definition of first degree or capital murder.

Due to the great severity of the offense, the penalties for a murder conviction are also exceptionally severe.  If the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, he or she faces the following consequences:

  • Capital Murder — Capital punishment, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (release)
  • First Degree Murder — 25 years to life in prison
  • Second Degree Murder — 15 years to life in prison

Does California Have the Death Penalty?

The state of California carried out more than 700 executions prior to 1972.  That year, the California Supreme Court ruled in People v. Anderson that capital punishment, or the death penalty, was unconstitutional.  However, the death penalty was quickly reinstated just several few months after the Supreme Court’s decision.

Numerous defendants were sentenced to death in the intervening decades, and by 2015, approximately 750 prisoners were waiting on California’s “death row.”  While California still maintains the death penalty as of August 2016, no prisoners have been executed since 2006.  A piece of legislation called Proposition 62, or the Justice That Works Act, which would repeal the death penalty in California, will be voted on in November.

Get Legal Help from an Experienced Homicide Defense Lawyer in Santa Barbara County

Our homicide attorneys know just how much is at stake in a murder trial.  Count on our accomplished and respected legal team to exhaustively scrutinize every last facet of your case, no matter how minor, in a tireless effort to protect your reputation and freedom.

Murder charges turn your life upside down, but you don’t have to go through this difficult time alone.  Get aggressive and experienced legal representation on your side.  To set up a free legal consultation, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC right away at (805) 643-5555.

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