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What Is Second Degree Murder in California?

April 2, 2019

Any murder that is not charged as first degree is considered second degree murder.

What Is Second Degree Murder in California?

Generally speaking, most people understand that “murder” means killing someone. But under the law, the term “murder” has a specific legal meaning, with degrees assigned to it. The type of murder that a person is charged with has significant implications on the sentence that they may expect to receive if they are convicted.

Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought. According to a murder defense lawyer Los Angeles, CA, malice aforethought means that a person “with wanton disregard for human life, does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death.” In other words, if you acted in a way that would likely lead to death — such as shooting a gun in a crowded area — you have likely acted with malice aforethought.

First degree murder involves a murder that is willful, deliberate or premeditated; that is accomplished using a destructive device, weapon of mass destruction, armor-piercing ammunition, poison, lying in wait or torture; or that is occurs during the commission of a serious felony crime (felony murder rule). All other murders are considered second degree murders.

Like first degree murder, second degree murders are willful. However, they are not deliberate or premeditated. For example, if a person has repeated DUI convictions and drives drunk, causing an accident that kills someone, that may be considered second degree murder. Similarly, if a person violently slams a weaker person to the street, causing them to strike their head, it may be charged as second degree murder.

According to a murder defense lawyer Los Angeles, CA, some felony murders are charged as second degree murders. If a death occurs during a felony that is inherently dangerous but that is not included in the first degree felony murder rule, it will be prosecuted as second degree felony murder.

Second degree murder is a felony offense. While the exact punishment will depend on the facts of the case and the criminal history of the defendant, it is punishable by between 15 years and life in state prison.

There are a number of potential defenses to second degree murder under California law. Working with a skilled murder defense lawyer Los Angeles, CA can help you as you develop a defense based on the facts of your case. For example, you may be able to claim self defense if you reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of being killed, suffering great bodily injury, or being the victim of another forcible crime. If the evidence against you was taken as the result of an illegal search or seizure, your murder defense lawyer Los Angeles, CA could move to have that evidence suppressed and the charges against you reduced or dismissed.

Second degree murder is a serious charge that requires the assistance of a top notch criminal defense lawyer. At the Chambers Law Firm, we have experience handling the most serious California criminal charges. We will work hard to protect your rights and your freedom. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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