Under California Penal Code Section 187, "murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought." This means that the murderer had the "intent" to kill another human being and planned to do so ahead of time. There is a fine line between murder and manslaughter, manslaughter lacks "malice" and aforethought. In which case, manslaughter refers to a death that was the result of an unintentional act or an accident.
Murder in the first degree, refers to killing that was both "deliberate and premeditated." Murders that resulted because of arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, firearms, motor vehicles, premeditated killings, torture, poison, explosives, and by any other means that were in fact deliberate and intentional are murders of the first degree. All other murders are murder in the second degree.
In addition, murders that occur during the commission of another felony offense can also be charged as murder in the first degree. This means that even if you didn't plan or intend to kill someone during the commission the crime, but somebody wound up dying as a result, you can be charged with murder in the first degree.
Manslaughter refers to a murder that was unplanned. Voluntary manslaughter would be a sudden, unintentional act that occurred in the heat of the moment whereas involuntary manslaughter occurs out of either illegal or negligent behavior that resulted in the death of another human being.
A first degree murder conviction is penalized by either death, a life sentence without parole or 25 years to life. A second degree murder conviction is punishable by 15, 20 or 25 years to life. Voluntary manslaughter carries anywhere from 3 to 11 years in prison whereas involuntary manslaughter carries two to four years.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a murder or homicide, it would be wise of you to get the advice of a skilled attorney at The Law Offices of David S. Chesley. We realize that if convicted, you face years in prison. We will strongly defend your rights by using a variety of expert witnesses who will challenge all evidence against you in a court of law.
Law Offices of David S. Chesley, Inc.
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4533 Van Nuys Boulevard, Second Floor
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Additional offices in the Counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.