If you or a family member are facing a murder charge in Los Angeles, you need legal help immediately. Murder charges are among the most serious violent felonies and carry consequences that can last a lifetime—including the possibility of going to prison for life. If you have been charged with this crime, you need to understand that it is possible to beat the charge and to reduce it to a lesser offense, get the case dismissed, or even win your case altogether. You need to speak to a Los Angeles homicide lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group wants to help you. Whether you have been charged with murder yourself or are looking for help for a loved one, we will defend you like you are our own family member. We have only one mission: to protect those who stand accused and get you the best possible outcome for your case.
Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation immediately.
What counts as murder in Los Angeles?
Legally, murder is charged under California Penal Code Section 187. According to this law, in order to be convicted of murder the prosecution must prove three things:
You did something that caused the death of another person (or a fetus)
At the time you did it, you had a state of mind known as “malice aforethought”, and
There was no legal justification for your actions (such as self defense)
Of these, “malice aforethought” is often the most important. This phrase basically means you intended to kill the person or you should have known that what you did could kill them. For example, if a man runs into someone with his car, he may not have intended to kill that person, but he should have known that a car could kill a person. This would count as malice aforethought.
There are many cases where malice aforethought is hard to prove, however. This could include heated arguments, killings that involved drugs or alcohol, and many other circumstances. A good murder defense lawyer can challenge the prosecutor about whether or not you acted with malice. In many murder cases, this is enough to get the murder charge reduced to something much less serious, or even to win your case.
What is the difference between First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder?
These are two different ways that the crime can be charged, depending on the specifics of the case. Both are serious, but first degree murder carries much higher penalties. In general, the difference between these two charges is:
First degree murder is charged if you premeditated the killing. That means that you planned it or thought about it, and chose to act knowing you could kill someone. (First degree murder can also be charged if you used an explosive device, “tortured” the person for a long time, used poison, planned the attack and waited to surprise them, or killed the person while committing another dangerous felony, or in some other special cases.)
Second degree murder is everything else. Generally, if you did not plan or decide in advance to go attack the person, you should be charged with second degree murder. However, there are some prosecutors who will push for a first degree murder charge anyway in the hopes that you will not have good legal counsel and will end up getting convicted.
The difference between these two charges may seem technical, but that technicality has a big impact on the outcome: you could serve at least 10 extra years of prison time if convicted of first degree murder instead of second degree murder. In some cases, first degree murder can also carry the death penalty.
What are the penalties for murder in Los Angeles?
The penalties are extreme. In general, they are:
First degree murder carries either:
The death penalty,
Life in prison without parole, or
25 years to life in state prison
Second degree murder carries:
15 years to life in prison
These are minimum sentences. The prison time served will be increased (up to life without parole in some cases) if any of the following applies:
The murder counts as a hate crime
You killed a police officer
You shot out of a vehicle (“drive by shooting”)
You have a prior murder conviction
How do you fight a murder charge? Can I win my case?
Yes, you can fight a murder charge and there are several strong defenses we may be able to use in your case. Depending on the circumstances, any of the following defenses may work:
Accidental killing. This is a very powerful defense in many murder cases and it can sometimes win your case outright. Basically, if the death happened accidentally (and you were not breaking any other laws), it simply is not a murder. You might walk free of all charges. However, if it happened while you were committing another crime, it could still count as murder. You need a lawyer to help you.
Wrong person/“mistaken identity.” This is common when the supposed killer was not found until after the killing. Police are often going by eyewitness reports and will arrest you if you match the description. However, if you assert that you were not there and we can establish an alibi for you, it is very hard to convict you.
Self-defense. You have a right to use force, or even cause a death, if you are defending yourself from an immediate threat. We can help you decide if your case may qualify as self-defense.
Defense of others. If the threat was to someone else rather than yourself, the same self-defense conditions may exist.
Insanity. This is a defense we do not use unless it is necessary. Most defendants do not want to be labeled this way, but there are times when it may be the only way to avoid a conviction. This defense is appropriate if there is evidence that you may suffer from a mental disability or mental illness. All we have to prove is that you could not understand the lethal nature of your actions when you took them, or that you were not able to tell right from wrong at the time you acted. Used carefully, this can be a very powerful defense.
These are not the only ways to fight a murder charge, and it’s possible to construct a different defense that fits the specifics of your case. A good defense can be the difference between life in prison and moving on with your life. In some cases, you may even be able to resolve your case without ever going to trial.
Talk to a Los Angeles Murder Attorney for Free
Do not spend a single day facing a murder charge without legal counsel. The Simmrin Law Group is here for you and your family. Let us give you a free consultation so you understand your options and how to protect yourself. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.