Being charged with murder in California is serious. No matter which degree, a conviction comes with severe prison sentences. But what is the differences between first- and second-degree murder? And what are some defense strategies that can be used against murder charges?
You can learn more about California Penal Code Section 189: Degrees of Murder with our team at the Simmrin Law Group. We understand all the murder charges used in California and provide answers for our clients. Find out more about how California classifies different types of murder here.
What Is PC 189: Degrees of Murder?
California Penal Code Section 189: Degrees of Murder provides information about different kinds of murder in the state. PC 189 lists out the characteristics of both first and second-degree murder.
Individuals do not face charges under PC 189. Instead, this penal code provides supplemental information about murder charges in the state.
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How Many Degrees of Murder Are There in California?
According to PC 189, California classifies acts of murder into first- and second-degree charges. You may also hear the term “capital murder” used to describe some crimes in California.
Capital murder represents a specific kind of first-degree murder. However, it still falls under the umbrella of this form of murder. A California violent crimes lawyer can address both first and second-degree charges.
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How Does PC 189 Define First Degree Murder?
Under the law in California, individuals commit murder when they take another person’s life with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought means that an individual acted with the intention of killing another person.
The above description applies to both first- and second-degree murder charges. However, the crime must contain additional elements to qualify as first-degree murder, according to PC 189. Under this section of the legal code, individuals commit first-degree murder when carrying out:
- Premeditated murder
- Felony murder
- Murder by torture
- Murder by explosives
- Murder by poisoning
We can review the specifics of these charges in greater detail now.
What Is Premeditated Murder?
Premeditated murder occurs anytime someone plans the act of murder before carrying it out. Individuals could work with others to plan a murder, in which case they may also face conspiracy charges.
What Is Felony Murder?
Individuals can face charges of felony murder any time they kill another person in the commission of certain felonies. Felonies associated with felony murder accusations include:
- Train wrecking
Certain felony sex crimes that lead to a fatality, such as rape, can also lead to a felony murder charge.
How Does PC 189 Define Second-Degree Murder?
Generally, under California Penal Code Section 189: Degrees of Murder, second-degree murder covers crimes of passion. Individuals who commit a murder without prior planning, in the heat of the moment, may face second-degree murder charges.
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What Is the Maximum Sentence for First-Degree Murder in California?
Individuals convicted of first-degree murder can end up spending the rest of their lives in prison in California. However, this only represents the maximum sentence for a murder conviction.
In some cases, the court only sentences individuals to 25 years of prison time. 25 years represents the minimum time in prison for a murder conviction.
Note that, in the past, California has used the death penalty for first-degree murder convictions. However, the state currently has a moratorium on this penality. The state may reverse the decision in the future.
What Penalties Can You Face for Second-Degree Murder in California?
California Penal Code Section 189: Degrees of Murder does not cover the penalties for a murder conviction. Instead, the state shares this information in other sections of the penal code.
According to the law in California, you may face 15 years to life in prison after a conviction for second-degree murder. Any murder conviction could also lead to fines and restitution payments.
Additionally, individuals convicted of murder generally lose their right to own or purchase firearms. They may also have to attend courses on anger management as part of their sentence following a conviction.
How to Fight Murder Charges in California
You have legal options if you’re facing charges for either first- or second-degree murder in California. A violent crimes lawyer could step in to build a defense based on the facts of your case. Depending upon your circumstances, a lawyer may work to show that:
You Acted in Self-Defense
You have the right to protect yourself and others from violent actions in California through self-defense. If someone threatens you with significant bodily injury or death, you can take steps to protect yourself. These steps could result in the loss of a life.
The Death Occurred Due to an Accident
Sometimes, deadly accidents occur in California. These accidents should not lead to a murder charge. However, if an individual acted recklessly to cause the accident, they could still face charges of involuntary manslaughter.
You Faced False Allegations
Sometimes, individuals make false claims about murders in California. A lawyer can step in to help if you get falsely accused of killing another person. Lawyers take these charges seriously, as they can impact the rest of your life.
Learn More About PC 189: Degrees of Murder
Do you have more questions about California Penal Code Section 189: Degrees of Murder? You can find the answers you want with our team at the Simmrin Law Group. We put our knowledge of California’s legal codes to work for clients like you.
Find out more by calling us or completing our online contact form.