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A charge of first-degree murder is of course among of the most serious charges that a person can face, but it's also a nuanced offense that is important to fully understand. If you've been charged with first-degree murder in California, you need an experienced LA murder defense attorney who will thoroughly explain what you’re up against and will aggressively champion your rights. To schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, call the Law Offices of David S. Chesley today at 800-755-5174 or contact us online.
Penal Code 187
In California Penal Code 187, murder is defined as the “unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.” Malice aforethought refers to the defendant’s state of mind at the time. Malice refers to the perpetrator’s intent to commit an unlawful act without legal justification.
A charge of first-degree murder is the most serious murder charge that can be levied, and in California, it generally garners a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. While the fate of death sentences in California is under debate, the death sentence does remain viable, although no one has been executed in the state since 2006 (when California’s method of execution was challenged in court). To reach the level of first-degree murder, the act must fall into at least one of three distinct categories:
1. Is committed with a destructive device, armor-piercing ammunition, weapon of mass destruction, poison – or is committed by lying in wait for the victim or by torturing the victim
2. Is committed willfully, deliberately, or with premeditation
3. Occurs during the commission of certain serious felony crimes and, thus, invokes the California felony murder rule.
Any murder that doesn’t include one of these elements doesn't rise to the level of first-degree murder in California.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with first-degree murder in California, you need a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer now. As you’re probably all too aware, such a charge is extremely serious – and the sooner you obtain experienced legal counsel, the better. The dedicated legal team at the Law Offices of David S. Chesley in Los Angeles is here to help. Our dedicated California criminal defense attorneys have the skill, knowledge, and tenacity to aggressively advocate for your case’s most positive resolution. When the charge is first-degree murder, the stakes are incredibly high, and you need experienced legal counsel that’s committed to fighting for your rights and your future.
Serious Felony Crimes
There are several serious felony crimes that, when a murder takes place during their commission, elevates the charge to first-degree murder. These include:
Additionally, any murder committed by intentionally firing a gun from a vehicle at someone outside of the vehicle – with the intention of causing death – reaches the level of first-degree murder.
Put more simply, if you commit any of these crimes and someone is killed in the process (either accidentally or intentionally), you could be convicted of first-degree murder. This California felony murder rule isn’t without its share of debate and controversy, but it remains on the books. Fortunately, in many cases, a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can often mitigate the consequences you are facing in a felony murder.
California Penal Code provides for the concept of excusable homicide based on accident and misfortune for which three elements must be present:
1. The defendant was engaged in a lawful act when the victim was killed
2. The defendant was using normal caution (without criminal negligence) when the victim was killed
3. The defendant didn’t intend to do anything illegal
Excusable homicide is a legal defense, and as such, the prosecution faces the burden of proving that the homicide wasn’t excusable.
Further, a homicide may be deemed excusable if it’s committed accidentally “in the heat of passion” or during “sudden combat.” There are several relevant factors that must be in evidence for such a defense:
• The defendant was provoked into acting rashly in the heat of passion by intense emotions that prevented him or her from tempering those actions with reason and judgment.
• The victim either drew the defendant into combat or suddenly provoked him or her
• The defendant didn’t unfairly take advantage of the victim
• The defendant didn’t use a dangerous weapon to commit the homicide
• The defendant didn’t kill the victim in a cruel or unusual manner
• The defendant didn’t intend to kill the victim and didn’t consciously disregard the risk involved
• The defendant wasn’t criminally negligent
The heat of passion element of this defense must rise to such a level that it justifies reacting with strong emotion. This means that most reasonable people – if faced with the same event or situation – would likely be overcome by similar emotions.
Alternatively, California law allows the defense of justifiable homicide. Justifiable homicide differs from excusable homicide in that the act may be intentional. A common form of justifiable homicide is killing someone while attempting to defend either oneself or someone else from serious injury or death. To successfully show that the homicide was justifiable on the grounds of self-defense, several elements must be present (in tandem) at the time the homicide occurred:
• The defendant had the reasonable belief that he or she (or someone else) was in imminent danger of suffering great bodily harm, of being the victim of a “forcible and atrocious” crime, or of being killed.
• The defendant had a reason to believe that he or she needed to use deadly force to stop such an eventuality.
• The defendant didn’t use any more force than was necessary as a means of self-defense.
Reasonable Belief in Justifiable Homicide
The reasonable belief portion of the Justifiable homicide defense rests on whether the defendant’s belief that he or she (or someone else) was in real danger was reasonable in the first place. To establish this, the jury must agree that reasonable people under similar circumstances would share that belief. One element that can be factored into this consideration is whether the victim had threatened or harmed the accused in the past.
Imminent Danger in Justifiable Homicide
For a homicide to be justifiable on the grounds of self-defense (or in the defense of another), the defendant must believe that the danger of being attacked or killed will be realized imminently (or in the immediate future). The same doesn’t apply if the defendant fears future harm and kills the person he or she fears to eliminate that future danger.
Use No More Force than Necessary
Another important component of justifiable homicide is that the defendant can’t have used more physical force than reasonable people would consider necessary to protect themselves from similar threats.
Defending Against Harm at Home
Finally, if you killed someone who was in the process of invading your home to protect yourself or anyone else, this act may rise to the level of justifiable homicide. This could be the case if you reasonably believed that you were going to be the victim of violence or that the intruder planned on committing a “forcible and atrocious crime.”
If You’re Facing First-Degree Murder Charges, You Need an Experienced California Criminal Defense Lawyer
Every first-degree murder charge is unique, but every such charge is also extremely serious. If you’re facing a first-degree murder charge, the dedicated legal team at the Law Offices of David S. Chesley in Los Angeles has the skill, experience, and tenacity to fight for your rights and your case's most positive outcome. Our committed Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys care about your case, and we’re here to aggressively advocate for you. Please contact or call us at 800-755-5174 today.
The allegations of first-degree murder are one of the toughest offenses with harsh punishments for a lifetime. California has a strict legal framework for punishing those who show a disregard for human life.
Most of the murders that do not qualify the elements of first-degree murder are charged with second-degree murder.
The article 192 of the California Penal Code distinguishes manslaughter from the murder.
According to the Penal Code statute 193(b), a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when killing results from an unlawful act, or from dangerously committing a lawful act, or because of criminal negligence.
Vehicular Manslaughter (CA Penal Code 191.5 & 192 PC) is when someone is injured or killed by the negligent operation of a vehicle.
Multiple defendants each facing 7 years charged with smuggling prescription drugs into California from Mexico our client was the only defendant who received NO JAIL TIME!
Client facing 5 years for possession of deadly weapon we negotiated a plea for NO JAIL TIME!
Client facing 3 life terms for multiple felony counts of Child Molestation and Sodomy with child we proved the charges were fabricated by victims mother DISMISSAL of all charges at preliminary hearing!
Strike case: Client charged with possession of methamphetamine facing 25 years we filed a Romero Motion which was granted case REDUCED TO MISDEMEANOR!
Client's estranged girlfriend alleged Client broke into her room and choked her facing 14 years in State Prison we won at trial JURY ACQUITTAL.
Police allegedly discovered 3 bags of marijuana in client's glove box faced 6 years we filed a 1538.5 motion to suppress resulting in DISMISSAL of all charges!
Client allegedly sold rock cocaine to undercover officer faced 10 years following our argument client received NO JAIL TIME!
Client facing 15 years for Armed Robbery we proved misidentification Judge DISMISSED the case!
Rodrigo L. San Fernando, CA (Sherman Oaks Yelp Review)
I am truly pleased with my experience with the Law Offices Of David S Chesley. They answered all my questions and provided me with great advice and legal services. My case resolved quickly. Thank you!
Ricardo Esteves Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles Google Places Review)
I left court yesterday with my last case being wrapped up. Two court appearances and that's it. He represented me in a couple of different cases and was impressive to say the least. Always a phone call or text message away. Confident and aggressive when he needed to be. Calming and thorough when meeting with me. Attorney Chesley did exactly what he said he would and I got the results I needed. He seemed to know all the right people at the Temple Street courthouse. You can always get in contact with him quickly and he is a great lawyer. I highly recommend his legal services.
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My brother was given a very caring attorney that was assigned to his case and we had very helpful case managers throughout the process. I strongly recommend David Chesley to anyone who is in trouble. I called in to get help on my brothers case and right away I liked their service. My brothers charges were eventually dismissed after the attorney got him into a program, now he could go on without the trouble of having anything on his record
Elizabeth F. San Diego, CA (San Diego Google Places Review)
I retained Mr. Chesley and his firm and from the beginning they were extremely professional both in communicating the status of my case to me, explaining the situation as a whole, and just downright taking care of business. It was money well spent for a job well done. Thanks again to David and Melissa others that worked on my case. I recommend this firm to anyone in need of legal representation. Don’t just accept things the courts force on you, call this firm and protect yourself.
Leon Hanley Los Angeles, CA (Los Angeles Avvo review)
I contacted Mr. Chesley and his firm because some unfortunate events had left me in a jam. Detectives were demanding I testify or be prosecuted for a crime I didn’t commit. (I wasn’t involved or even at the scene of the alleged crime when it supposedly took place.) Mr. Chesley explained to me that he had been through similar situations with his clients before and understood exactly what was going on. His response to what took place was nothing short of amazing. No matter how small my concern, Mr. Chesley addressed it in a timely manner. He advocated for what is right and empathized with me in dealing with the Court system. After meeting with the supervising D.A. and providing alibi evidence he was able to get me out the situation. I’m very grateful to have found him.
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I hired David Chesley for my criminal defense in 2012. he was recommended to us for is success results and his low fees. David is very smart and his professional legal advice was honest & much appreciated during these stressful time. David's knowledge, advice, and communication about what we were to expect was reassuring and beneficial to me. He charged me a reasonable flat rate and didn't charge me any surprise fees. In my case David Chesley was able to negotiate with the prosecution attorney for the best result I could hope for. He had success at getting my criminal charges dismissed with the judges approval. You will not be disappointed if you hire The Law Offices of David S. Chesley.
Andrew A. North Hollywood, CA (Better Business Bureau review)
David is very professional, yet very casual. Although it is typically not easy to speak straight up with an attorney, he is very easy to talk to. He replied to my questions quickly and was available all hours. Not only did he get my case resolved with a dismissal, he went above and beyond and got me an expungement without me even requesting it. He never beats around the bush and tells you like it is. At the same time is willing to work overtime to get the results you request. I would use David's services again in the future.