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 reduce it to a lesser offense, get the case dismissed, or even win your case altogether. You need to speak to a homicide and murder defense attorney in Los Angeles from the Simmrin Law Group.
How Criminal Cases Work in California
The criminal court process in California can vary slightly depending on the charge type. For felonies like murder, case proceedings include:
An investigation for a criminal case usually involves law enforcement interviewing witnesses, questioning the suspect, or carrying out a search warrant. At this point, suspects can implement their Fifth Amendment rights and have their attorney communicate with police.
Also known as “booking” the suspect, the person is taken to the police station and scanned for fingerprints, undergoes a background check, and their personal information is documented. Suspects can either remain in custody or be released by posting bond or on their own recognizance.
This is the first court appearance before a judge. During this formal hearing, the District Attorney reads the defendant’s charges and a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest can be made. “Guilty” and “no contest” pleas go straight to the sentencing hearing while “not guilty” pleas move on to discuss bail.
Most cases are solved during this phase following the arraignment but right before an actual trial. Court appearances, evidence issues, and plea bargains usually occur.
For a free legal consultation with a homicide and murder defense lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 896-2723
How Much does a Homicide Defense Attorney in Los Angeles Cost?
Since no two murder defense cases are the identical, there’s no one set price for a homicide attorney. There are a myriad of things that would affect your lawyer’s rate. Factors that might affect what you procure your defense could include:
- The difficulty of the case
- Your lawyer’s experience
- The community that your lawyer serves
- Any extra costs like subpoena fees
If you’re tempted to just take the cheapest attorney that you can find, that may not necessarily be a good move. Good lawyers cost more, and a cheaper lawyer might be inexperienced or they cut corners. For a serious charge like homicide, you should have a quality defense attorney.
It’s better to pay for a good defense than pay the exorbitant fines and jail time that come with a conviction. When you meet with us for a free consultation, one of our Los Angeles homicide and murder defense attorneys will tell you around how much you can expect to pay.
Los Angeles Homicide and Murder Defense Lawyer Near Me (310) 896-2723
What Counts As Murder in California?
Legally, murder is charged under California Penal Code (CPC) § 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 them, 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.
There is a chance that your homicide and murder defense attorney in L.A. could be able to reduce your charge, however. We know how to keep prosecutors from pinning you with a charge that you don’t deserve. We can stay by your side to keep them from taking advantage of you.
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What Is Capital Murder in California?
In California, capital murder is considered to be the most severe version of the crime. Legally, capital murder is first-degree murder with special circumstances that elevate the punishment you could receive.
There are around 20 different circumstances that define capital murder, but the most common include the murder of a public servant, murder for financial gain, or murder in a hate crime.
The reason the charge is called “capital murder” is because the state believes that the crime warrants capital punishment or life in prison. This is the harshest punishment that the state could inflict, so you want to avoid it by any means possible.
A criminal defense attorney could be able to get your charge reduced. By showing that what happened does not warrant a death sentence or life in prison, our team can make sure you stand a chance of seeing your loved ones again.
California’s Attempted Murder Laws
Even if murder does not occur, you could face repercussions for attempted murder in California. In CPC § 664, the state legislature says that anyone who attempts to commit a crime but fails is still subject to punishment. For murder, this consists of:
- Having the intent to kill
- Taking a direct step towards killing someone
- Failing to kill that person
If a prosecutor is able to prove those three things were true during an altercation, you could be charged with attempted murder. For first-degree attempted murder, that could be up to a life sentence in state prison. For second-degree attempted murder, you could receive up to nine years in prison.
However, since the definition of attempted murder is so strict, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer could be able to help reduce your charge to something like assault or battery. Our attorneys can prove that you had no intent to kill or were acting in self-defense so that you can avoid the harsh penalties that an attempted murder charge can bring.
How California Three Strikes Law Applies
Codified in PC Section 667, California’s three-strikes law sentences defendants to prison for 25 years to life when convicted of three or more violent or serious felonies. California is extremely unique as the prison sentence doubles for those who have only two prior convictions.
A California homicide and murder defense lawyer can use various strategies to fight a three strike sentence. For example, requesting that the judge remove a strike is called a Romero motion. As laws have changed, some strikes would not be relevant today.
What Are the Penalties for Murder in California?
The penalties for murder in California are extreme. In general:
- 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.
You could be able to avoid these penalties, however. A criminal defense attorney could be able to get your sentence reduced so that your life isn’t ruined by the consequences of your conviction.
How Do You Fight a Murder Charge? Can You Win Your Case?
Yes, you can fight a murder charge and there are several strong defenses we may be able to use in your case. A violent crimes lawyer in Los Angeles can best advise you of which approach is likely to be most effective for your situation. Depending on the circumstances, any of the following defenses may work:
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 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.
You have a right to use force, or even cause 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.
This defense is not to be used unless it is necessary. It is appropriate if there is evidence that you may have 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.
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.
At your initial consultation with one of our murder and homicide defense lawyers in Los Angeles, our team will assess your case and tell you what we can do for you. Our attorneys will let you know what defenses we’re likely to use and what your case could look like.
Talk to a Los Angeles Murder and Homicide Defense Attorney for Free
Do not spend a single day facing a murder charge without legal counsel. The Los Angeles murder and homicide defense lawyers at Simmrin Law Group are here for you and your family. 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 to help you understand your options and how to protect yourself. Fill out the form to the right or call us and get your free consultation today.