Choosing the Best Murder Lawyer in San Diego
Murder is a serious criminal charge that can result in mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty in some cases. If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges for murder in San Diego, it is imperative that you retain the services of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The consequences of a murder conviction are harsh and long-lasting, and you may only get one shot at defending yourself against murder charges.
At Sevens Legal, APC, our award-winning criminal defense attorneys firmly believe that any person accused of committing a crime like murder has a right to be represented by an experienced attorney who will do everything in his or her power to fight the charges. Contact our hard-hitting San Diego criminal defense lawyers today to find out how we can help.
California Murder Law – Penal Code § 187
The law that defines the crime of murder in San Diego is California Penal Code § 187 PC, which states that “Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” As it pertains to murder, malice aforethought refers to the state of mind of an individual during the deliberate and unlawful commission of a homicide
. In California murder cases, malice can be either express, meaning the defendant had a deliberate intention to kill at the time the homicide was committed, or implied, the defendant’s intentional and dangerous conduct showed a conscious disregard for human life but the defendant did not have a deliberate intention to kill. In California, murder can be charged as first-degree or second-degree, depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime.
California Penal Code § 189(a) PC puts forth very specific conditions under which a homicide can be charged as first-degree murder. According to the law, murder in the first degree includes any murder committed by:
- Use of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, or poison,
- Lying in wait,
- A willful, deliberate and premeditated killing, or
- Intentionally discharging a firearm from a vehicle at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to kill.
In California, there is a felony murder rule, which allows a defendant to be charged with first-degree murder for a homicide that occurs during the commission of a dangerous felony. The felony murder rule only applies to offenses that are considered “inherently dangerous,” such as robbery, burglary, rape, arson and kidnapping, and can result in criminal charges being brought against not only the person who carried out the homicide, but also any other person(s) who directly participated in the death.
Under California law, all other forms of murder not considered first degree are charged as second-degree murder.
Capital murder, also known as “first-degree murder with special circumstances,” is a term used to describe a California murder offense that is punishable by either capital punishment (the death penalty) or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Some examples of special circumstances that may elevate first-degree murder to capital murder in San Diego include a murder that is intentional and carried out for financial gain, a murder committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest, a murder involving more than one victim that is committed using a bomb or explosive device, or a murder where the victim was a police officer, firefighter, judge, juror, prosecutor or elected official.
Under PC § 664/187, if you attempt to commit a homicide and that person does not die, you could end up facing criminal charges for attempted murder. An “attempted” murder occurs when the alleged offender has a specific intent to commit a murder and took a deliberate and direct step towards completing the act, without success.
Criminal Penalties for Murder
Sentencing for a murder conviction in San Diego varies depending on the specific murder law that applies to the offense in question. For instance, first-degree murder generally carries a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison, while second-degree murder carries a sentence of 15 years to life. There are certain aggravating circumstances that can increase the sentence for a second-degree murder conviction. If the defendant served a prior murder sentence or if the victim is a peace officer, the defendant could end up serving a longer prison sentence. Capital murder is the most serious homicide charge in California and the punishment for a capital murder conviction is either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Building a Defense Against Murder Charges
In order to convict a defendant of the crime of first- or second-degree murder under PC § 187, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The specific elements of a San Diego murder charge include the following:
- The defendant committed an act that caused the death of another person,
- The killing was unlawful (without excuse or justification), and
- The defendant acted with malice aforethought.
Possible Defense Strategies in a Murder Case
The best way to defend yourself against murder charges in San Diego
is to retain the services of a qualified California criminal defense attorney who understands the law and how it applies to your criminal case. In defending you against murder charges, some possible defense strategies your defense attorney may use include asserting that you acted in self-defense or in defense of someone else, that the killing was accidental, that the evidence against you was obtained by means of an illegal search and seizure, that you suffered from insanity at the time of the killing, or that you are a victim of mistaken identity. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may even be able to argue that the killing in question amounted to a lesser form of homicide, such as manslaughter, in which case you could end up facing less serious charges.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney for Help
Murder is a serious criminal offense punishable by years in a California state prison, a life sentence or the death penalty. If you have been charged with the crime of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or attempted murder in San Diego, your freedom and your future are at stake. Contact our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Sevens Legal, APC as soon as possible to develop the best possible defense strategy in your murder case.