If you face a homicide charge, you must act with a sense of urgency by contacting a Southern California criminal defense lawyer. An experienced attorney not only can present a powerful defense, but a highly skilled lawyer knows how to plead down a homicide charge to a lesser degree.
Let’s review the different degrees of murder in California.
What is Negligent Homicide?
As the least serious murder charge, negligent homicide often is the charge associated with an automobile fatality. A driver of a vehicle committed one or more acts of simple negligence, such as running a red light or passing another vehicle in a no-passing zone. Negligent homicide convictions in Los Angeles County typically impose substantial community service, but little if any jail time.
What is Vehicular Manslaughter?
The next step on the homicide ladder is called vehicular manslaughter. Instead of simple negligence like running a red light, vehicular manslaughter involves gross negligence. Think of the death of a driver who died because of a street race accident. Vehicular manslaughter is often referred to as a “wobbler” criminal case because it can result in either a low-grade felony or a misdemeanor that can trigger up to a one-year jail sentence.
Involuntary manslaughter represents a crime that unfolds during a misdemeanor or as the result of an act that tried to defy a risk of death. Examples of this type of murder include firing a gun in the air to celebrate the new year. Although California hands out low-grade felony convictions for this type of murder, it is not considered a violent crime. Inmates convicted of involuntary manslaughter charges usually get released after serving 50 percent of their prison sentences.
As an intentional act that resulted in a homicide, voluntary manslaughter involves a crime that does not include premeditation and malice thoughts. This means a defendant facing a voluntary manslaughter charge knew an act would likely result in death, but the defendant did not have enough time to consider the legal consequences of his or her actions. A conviction for the charge of voluntary manslaughter can result in a prison sentence that is either three, six, or 11 years. There is also the possibility of a one-year county jail sentence for a less serious case of voluntary manslaughter.
Second Degree Murder
Committed with malice thoughts, second-degree murder does not involve deliberation and premeditation. This means a defendant charged with second-degree murder intended to kill the victim, but the defendant did not plan his or her actions before committing the crime. A common example of this is when two people get into a fight, with one of the participants taking the fight to the next level by using a weapon that kills the other participant. The defendant did not plan on using the weapon when the fight started, but anger and rage prompted the defendant to use excessive force that resulted in murder.
Second-degree murder convictions trigger prison sentences between 15 years and life.
First Degree Murder
First-degree murder requires an intentional act of murder, with considerable premeditation and deliberation. Classic evidence of first-degree murder includes statements, planning notes, and/or financial motives. The key to defending a first-degree murder charge is to cast doubt that a defendant had any motive to kill someone else. A conviction for first-degree murder results in a prison sentence between 25 years to life. Few first-degree murder convictions end up in an early release from prison.
If you face a murder charge of any degree in California, you should quickly get in touch with a state-licensed criminal defense attorney. Schedule a free case evaluation with Dan E. Chamber by calling the Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088.