Homicide Degrees in Los Angeles

1st Degree Murder in Los Angeles

California Penal Code §187 Defines MURDER as the "the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought". The penalties for committing murder can be life without parole or the death penalty.

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Malice aforethought is often the critical issue in a 1st Degree Murder Prosecution. Penal Code § 188 states that malice aforethought may be express or implied.  It is express when there is manifested a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow creature. It is implied, when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.

When it is shown that the killing resulted from the intentional doing of an act with express or implied malice as defined above, no other mental state need be shown to establish the mental state of malice aforethought.  Neither an awareness of the obligation to act within the general body of laws regulating society nor acting despite such awareness is included within the definition of malice.

First Degree Murder and Felony Murder

Malice aforethought can be shown during the commission of certain enumerated acts under Penal Code §189. All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing.

The mental state required to prove First Degree murder is implied, when a Death occurs during the commission of certain inherently dangerous felonies. In California, this is called the Felony Murder Rule. When a prosecutor has a case that is weak regarding evidence of malice aforethought, they will often alternatively plead the felony murder rule to meet the necessary mental element of malice aforethought.

Second Degree Murder

All murders that occur without the requisite malice aforethought, meaning the act was not intentional or deliberate, can be prosecuted as a Second Degree Murder.

Oftentimes, people think of Second Degree Murder when they think of "heat of passion" as the cause of the events leading to death. A common example is the unfaithful spouse or lovers quarrel type of case, or a bar fight that became deadly. Another common example is reckless disregard for the safety of others. For example, you could be charged with Second Degree Murder if you are speeding outside of a school or mall at a busy time of day, and lose control of your vehicle causing a death.

Felony Murder Rule

The mental state required to prove First Degree murder is implied, when a Death occurs during the commission of certain inherently dangerous felonies. In California, this is called the Felony Murder Rule. When a prosecutor has a case that is weak regarding evidence of malice aforethought, they will often alternatively plead the felony murder rule to meet the necessary mental element of malice aforethought.

A homicide or murder which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, Penal Code § 451 arson, Penal Code § 261 rape, Penal Code §215 carjacking, Penal Code §211 robbery, Penal Code § 459 burglary, Penal Code §203 mayhem, Penal Code §207 kidnapping, Penal Code §219 train wrecking, or any act punishable under Penal Code § 206, 286, 288a or 289, or any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death, is murder of the first degree.  

Common defenses to Second Degree Murder

  • Self Defense
  • Defense of Another
  • Innocence

Capital Murder

Capital Murder is a First Degree Murder with Special Circumstances. Due to the particular facts and circumstances of a case, prosecutors may seek the Death Penalty or Life Without the Possibility of Parole also known and an LWOP. The District Attorneys office Death Committee evaluates the case to decide to allege the Special Circumstances enhancement.

The penalty for a defendant who is found guilty of murder in the first degree is death or imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole if one or more of the following special circumstances has been found under Section 190.4 to be true.

It is imperative to hire Murder Defense counsel if you are charged with these serious charges. Attorney Bradley S. Sandler has experience with Death Penalty allegations, Murder trials, attempted murder charges and murder appeals.

Call 310-246-3900 or send an email to Bradley@sandlerlawfirm.com to schedule a consultation.

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433 North Camden Drive, Suite 400, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Email: Bradley@sandlerlawfirm.com
Phone: 310-246-3900

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