Homicide accusations are one of the handful of charges that can potentially carry the death penalty in California. These serious charges demand the knowledge and skill of an experienced San Diego murder defense attorney like Peter M. Liss. If you have been accused or believe you are suspected of taking someone else’s life, please contact my offices by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 immediately to schedule a free initial consultation.
Not All Homicide Crimes are Murder
The first thing to remember when considering murder accusations are that when one person is killed by another, the person responsible could face a variety of charges under California state law. If the death was accidental, it will most likely be considered a manslaughter, not a murder. If the murder was purposeful, it will be categorized as either first or second degree.
What is First Degree Murder?
Most people understand that if a murder was pre-planned that it will be charged as first degree, but there are other reasons a death could be categorized as a first degree murder. If the murder involved torture, poison, an explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, ammunition designed to penetrate armor, or if the suspect was believed to have been lying in wait to commit the crime, it will be a first degree murder.
What About Capital Murder?
Capital murder charges are first degree murder charges that meet select criteria to qualify the defendant for the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole. Circumstances that make a murder a capital murder include, but are not limited to, killing for financial gain, killing multiple people, killing a witness to a crime, killing someone during a gang-related activity and killing someone as part of a hate crime. While most people charged with crimes are eligible for bail, those charged with capital offenses can be held without bail -and even if California switches to a no-bail system, those charged with violent crimes are less likely to be released pre-trial and those accused of capital murder are almost certain to stay in jail until their trials.
Understanding Second Degree Murders
Second degree murders aren’t so easily defined as they apply to willful murders that were not premeditated or deliberate. These are often called “crimes of passion” because they were intentional, but not thought out ahead of time. Essentially, any murder that does not meet the criteria for a first degree murder will meet these criteria under the law.
California Felony Murder Laws
Additionally, California law has a list of felony crimes that can result in first or second degree murder charges if someone dies in the process of the crime. For example, if someone dies during a rape, robbery, burglary, carjacking or kidnapping, those responsible can face first degree charges even if the death itself was an accident. Other “inherently dangerous” felonies that result in a death will usually be charged as second degree murder.
Fighting Murder Charges
It is critical anyone facing any type of murder accusation seek out a skilled San Diego criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible as sentencing can range from 15 years to life in prison. Depending on your situation, there are many defenses your San Diego attorney may use to fight the charges. Common defenses include:
- mistaken identity
- police violated your civil rights by performing an illegal search of your property or forcing you into an illegal confession
- lack of evidence
- self defense, defense of others or defense of your property
- imperfect self defense (meaning that though you don’t meet the requirements for self defense, you are still only guilty of manslaughter)
- and more
Alternatively, your lawyer may work with the prosecution to minimize your sentence or the charges against you in a plea bargain.
It is important to recognize that if you say the wrong thing in attempting to defend yourself, you could harm your chances from successfully using another defense in your case. This is why you should never agree to speak to police without your attorney present, even during an informal interview. Do not mistakenly believe that you are obligated to help the police solve their case, even if they claim you are not a suspect. This is a common technique they use to get people to talk to them without a criminal defense attorney present.
Call My Offices ASAP
I am San Diego murder defense attorney Peter Liss and I have 35 years experience defending clients accused of the most serious crimes in California. I can help you fight these extremely serious charges with the best possible outcome based on your specific circumstances. If you are under investigation for any type of homicide, please contact my offices today. I have two convenient locations: one in Vista, across the street from the North San Diego County courthouse and jail, and one in Carmel Valley just off the 5 freeway.
Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation at the location of your choice. I offer a live, 24/7 answering service, so you can be certain no matter what time of day you call, you will be able to talk to a live person.