Criminal Defense & Personal Injury Attorneys in Southern California, Including the Counties of San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles & Orange

First Degree Murder in California, its Penalties, and its Defenses

A person can be charged with first-degree murder in California when he or she is alleged to have unlawfully taken the life of another human being with a premeditated, deliberate intent along with the special circumstances listed in state law, according to the Find Law website. These circumstances include the use of certain weapons such as explosives, poison, or armor piercing bullets, killing that involved the torture of a victim, and killing that accompanied the commission of another felony, such as robbery or rape.

The punishment for first-degree murder in California can be 25 years to life, life without parole, or death depending on the circumstances of the crime.

There are a number of defenses to first-degree murder:

  • The defendant can claim that he or she lacked premeditation before committing the murder. This defense would downgrade the charge to second-degree murder or manslaughter, which carry lesser penalties.
  • The defendant can claim that he or she did not commit the crime and that the charge was a case of mistaken identity.
  • The defendant can claim that he or she was justified in committing the killing. The more common forms of justifiable homicide are self-defense of defense of others. Law enforcement or other public officials can claim that they were justified in committing the killing in the exercise of his or her duty.

If the killing could be proven to be the result of an accident that took place during a lawful activity, it would not be considered first-degree murder but would be considered manslaughter.

Finally, the defendant can invoke the insanity defense, claiming that he or she lack the capacity to appreciate the enormity of the act or realize that it was wrong.

If you have been charged with first-degree murder or any other criminal offense contact us.