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Murder and Homicide

If you're accused of murder, manslaughter or another homicide crime, don't wait before you contact an experienced Orange County murder defense attorney. These are some of the most serious crimes in California. The most serious murder charge can be punished by the death penalty or life in prison, and even involuntary manslaughter is charged as a felony. In order to avoid prison and life-changing criminal penalties, you should defend these crimes as well and thoroughly as possible.

Homicide crimes are divided in California law into murder and manslaughter.


Murder is defined as killing a human being (or a fetus) "with malice aforethought." In some cases, prosecutors can show malice aforethought by showing that the accused intended to commit the murder. In other cases, the "malice" is implied by the circumstances -- for example, the lack of a provocation to commit the murder, or an act that the accused knew would endanger someone else's life.

Murders are further divided into first-degree and second-degree murder. In brief, first-degree murder is charged for willful and premeditated acts, but also for murders that take place while another felony is being committed. That means you don't have to have planned or intended a killing to be charged with first-degree murder. All other murders are second-degree murders. First-degree murder charges are penalized by the death penalty, life in prison without parole or 25 years to life, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Second-degree murder carries a sentence of 15, 20 or 25 years to life, depending on the circumstances. Certain "special circumstances," such as using a firearm or lying in wait, can increase the sentence or allow prosecutors to request the death penalty.


A manslaughter is a murder without "malice aforethought," which often means unplanned. It's divided into voluntary, involuntary and vehicular manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is a sudden, intentional act -- a killing done in the "heat of passion." Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional act that grows from either a non-felony crime or legal behavior that could predictably result in a death, without enough caution. Voluntary manslaughter carries three to 11 years in prison, while involuntary manslaughter carries two to four years.

Vehicular manslaughter is charged when an unintended death resulted from driving a vehicle or vessel. Deaths caused by drunk driving or another crime and deaths caused by gross negligence are penalized more harshly than vehicular manslaughter without those circumstances. Depending on the kind of vehicular manslaughter, those charged face up to a year in jail or two to 10 years in prison.

Defending a Homicide Charge

The lines between different types of murder and manslaughter can be shaky. Prosecutors may bring more serious charges than the circumstances permit, especially if the incident got a lot of media coverage. Part of our job as Inland Empire murder defense lawyers is to argue against overreaching by prosecutors and make sure our clients aren't facing life-altering charges for crimes they didn't commit. Because homicide crimes are so serious, we aggressively defend the cases themselves as well. We make prosecutors live up to their legal obligation to prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt. To show that their story doesn't add up, we use expert witnesses in DNA, firearms identification, private investigators and other fields.

At best, a murder or manslaughter conviction means years in prison and life as a convicted felon. If you're facing a charge this serious, you need experienced representation from a Los Angeles County homicide defense attorneys right away. To speak to HOWARD LAW, PC and learn more about how we can help, please contact us through the Internet or call toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 today.