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Second-Degree Murder

Experienced Second-Degree Defense Lawyers in Los Angeles

If you or someone you care about has been charged with second-degree murder in California, you’re naturally going through an extremely difficult time. These charges are serious, and it’s important to understand the differences between a charge of second-degree murder and the even more extreme charge of first-degree murder and the potential defenses that may be available. If convicted, you could be facing extremely serious legal consequences, including spending the rest of your life in prison – or worse.

For this reason, if you have been charged with murder, you need to retain an experienced California criminal defense attorney today. Your rights and your future are far too important not to begin building your best defense immediately. To schedule a free consultation with one of our LA defense lawyers, call the Law Offices David S. Chesley today at 800-755-5174 or contact us online.

Malice Aforethought

In California, murder is defined in Penal Code 187 as the “unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.” This definition is critical to the charge of murder brought against you. Malice refers to the perpetrator’s intention to commit an unlawful act that causes harm (without legal justification) at the time of the murder. The aforethought component of this definition refers to the defendant’s state of mind when the crime was committed – whether he or she had conscious intent to cause great harm or death.

When faced with a second-degree murder charge, it is essential to contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Murder charges are not only complicated but also – as you no doubt know – extremely serious. You don’t want to waste any time before beginning to build a strong defense in support of your case’s best possible resolution. At the Law Offices of David S. Chesley in Los Angeles, our dedicated legal team is committed to aggressively advocating for your rights and your future. Your case matters and our California criminal defense attorneys are here to help.

A Second-Degree Murder Charge in California

A charge of second-degree murder in California is something of a catchall for murder charges that don't reach the level of first-degree charges and that are too elevated to be classified as manslaughter charges. Second-degree murder charges apply to everything in between. To classify as first-degree murder, the crime must fall into one of three specific categories:

1. A destructive device, a weapon of mass destruction, poison, or armor-piercing ammunition was used – or the defendant lied in wait for the victim or tortured the victim.
2. The murder was willful, deliberate, or premeditated.
3. The California felony murder rule is invoked because the crime occurred (either accidentally or intentionally) during the commission of a serious felony crime.

If you’ve been accused of second-degree murder, it means that you’ve been accused of a crime that was committed willfully but not with deliberation or premeditation. Sentencing for a conviction of second-degree murder is 15 years to life in state prison. Sentencing becomes more stringent if the victim was a peace officer who was killed in the performance of his or her job and if the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that this was true.

When Homicide is Considered Justifiable

Under California law, a homicide can be justified under certain circumstances. This means that while the defendant committed the act of which he or she is accused, he or she is not legally culpable. In order for a homicide to be justified, it must have occurred while the defendant was defending himself or herself (or someone else) from death or serious injury. Justifiable homicide is a legal defense, and the prosecution is, therefore, burdened with proving that the homicide wasn’t excusable. To qualify as justifiable self-defense, several factors must have existed (at the time of the homicide):

  • The defendant had reason to believe that he, she, or someone else was imminently in danger of being seriously injured, of being victimized in a "forcible and atrocious" crime, or of being murdered.
  • The defendant reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to eliminate the danger.
  • The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary for the act of self-defense.
    • The imminent danger factor in the legal defense of justifiable homicide means that the defendant must have reasonably believed that the threat of danger was immediate (or imminent). If instead, the defendant feared future danger, justifiable homicide does not apply as a viable legal defense. Finally, for justifiable homicide to hold, the defendant mustn’t have used more physical force than was reasonably necessary to protect him or herself from danger. To qualify as reasonable, the jury must find that reasonable people in similar situations would feel similarly threatened and would act similarly.

      When Homicide Is Considered Excusable

      In addition to justifiable homicide, the California Penal Code allows for homicide that’s deemed excusable because it’s based on accident and misfortune. Again, this is a legal defense, which must incorporate three distinct elements:

      1. At the time of the homicide, the defendant was engaged in lawful activity.
      2. At the time of the homicide, the defendant was using reasonable caution.
      3. At the time of the homicide, the defendant had no illegal intentions.

      Harm at Home

      If someone invades your home or other property and you kill that person in defense of yourself or anyone else, you may be found justified in your actions if you reasonably believed that the intruder was going to seriously harm you (or anyone else) or commit a “forcible and atrocious crime.” In general, a crime is considered forcible and atrocious when the crime’s character and manner create a reasonable fear of serious bodily harm or death. Murder, mayhem, rape, and robbery have been deemed forcible and atrocious crimes as a matter of law in California.

      Heat of Passion

      A homicide may also be found excusable if it’s committed accidentally while “in the heat of passion” or during “sudden combat.” For such a defense to apply, several components need to be present:

      • The heat of passion prompted the defendant’s intense emotions, which caused him or her to act rashly and without the tempering effects of critical reasoning and good judgment.
      • The defendant was either drawn into combat by or suddenly provoked by the homicide victim.
      • The defendant neither employed a dangerous weapon nor took unfair advantage of the homicide victim.
      • The defendant had no intention of killing the victim and didn’t consciously ignore the risk inherent to the situation.
      • The defendant wasn’t criminally negligent and didn’t kill the victim via cruel or unusual means.

      To reach the level of a heat-of-passion defense, the precipitating event must justify the defendant’s strong emotional reactions. Once again, this means that other reasonable people would likely experience similarly strong reactions upon encountering similar circumstances.

      Speak with a Los Angeles Second-Degree Murder Criminal Defense Attorney Today

      Every murder charge is unique to the circumstances of the situation, but if you’re facing a second-degree murder charge, it is extremely serious, and you need to procure experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. Such charges are complicated, and they demand careful legal attention. Your California criminal defense lawyer will carefully build your defense in accordance with the facts of your case and will aggressively advocate for your rights and your case's best possible resolution.

      The dedicated legal team at the Law Offices of David S. Chesley in Los Angeles understands how difficult murder charges are, and we have the compassion, experience, commitment, and drive to fight for you. If you’re looking at a second-degree murder charge, our experienced California criminal defense attorneys are here to help. Your case is too important not to contact us online or call us at 800-755-5174 today.

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First Degree Murder

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.

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Second Degree Murder

Most of the murders that do not qualify the elements of first-degree murder are charged with second-degree murder.

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Voluntary Manslaughter

The article 192 of the California Penal Code distinguishes manslaughter from the murder.

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Involuntary Manslaughter

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.

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Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular Manslaughter (CA Penal Code 191.5 & 192 PC) is when someone is injured or killed by the negligent operation of a vehicle.

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Gang Related Murder

Gang-related Murder is a very serious offense. In California it is against the law to participate in a criminal street gang.

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Recent Results

  • 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!

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