How California Homicide and Murder Laws Work

Updated: Sep 10

Homicide Laws And Relevant Legal Definitions In California

Homicide, sometimes known as murder or manslaughter in California, is the willful and unlawful killing of another person. The state's laws are clear on which offenses constitute manslaughter and which constitute murder.

As with any criminal charge, California homicide charges depend on the severity of the act. So let's look at how that works legally, as experienced by prescreened Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers.


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How Is Homicide Defined In California Criminal Law?


Homicide is the intentional taking of another person's life, whether done so legally or illegally. Both murder and manslaughter are examples of homicide. However, when someone kills another person in self-defense or to protect someone else who is at grave risk of being killed, it is seen as legal.

Unlike cases of murder in California, which is typically carried out in the throes of passion or as the result of an accident, manslaughter may be either voluntary or involuntary. Manslaughter does not involve deliberate malice.


When someone dies due to someone else's negligence, it is considered involuntary manslaughter. For instance, if a person runs a red light and collides with another car, killing the occupants of that vehicle, that person may be prosecuted with involuntary manslaughter.


Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional death of another person without premeditation or malice. It frequently results from an instantaneous reaction in which the offender has little time to reflect and instead acts in the heat of the moment.


As the term suggests, vehicular manslaughter refers to fatalities brought on by motor vehicles. When someone commits vehicular manslaughter, they may operate a car they are aware is flawed in some way and cause the death of another person as a result. Although the killing was not deliberate, it was nevertheless illegal.


Regardless of which charges you're faced, you must contact a California Criminal Defense Lawyer ASAP. You want to ensure you're making all the right moves and preserving your defense.


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First-Degree Murder In California

First-degree murder is the most serious of the two classes. The second degree will therefore be used to charge a murder unless exact requirements are met. The four situations in which a charge of first-degree murder is appropriate are as listed in California Penal Code 189:

  • Committed by a bomb, a weapon of mass destruction, poison, or an armor-piercing weapon

  • Committed by ambush or by torture

  • Committed with malice aforethought

For any first-degree murder charge, Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can help with investigations, building defenses, and providing evidence.

Felony Murder In California


According to prescreened Criminal Defense Attorneys Los Angeles, a killing committed while committing some offenses may be charged as first-degree murder under the felony murder rule. This is true even if there wasn't the kind of premeditation required for other murder counts.

Capital Murder Laws In California

Any first-degree murder charge that carries a death sentence or a life sentence in prison without the chance of parole is considered capital murder. Also referred to as "murder with extraordinary circumstances," capital murder is justified when any of the unique conditions listed in California Penal Code 190.2 are true. These are a few of those instances:

  • The killing was made as a financial ploy.

  • The defendant has a history of murder convictions.

  • The murder was carried out using a bomb or explosive device.

  • To evade or stop a legal arrest, the murder was concealed.

  • The victim was a federal law enforcement community member who was slain on purpose while carrying out their official duties.

Second-Degree Murder In California

Second-degree murder must still be committed with malice but not with premeditation. According to California law, any homicide that does not meet the criteria for murder in the first degree will be charged as murder in the second.

What's The Difference Between Second-Degree Murder And Manslaughter?


A killing may not be considered murder simply because it does not meet the criteria. Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person, just as murder.


Manslaughter, on the other hand, is distinct because it doesn't involve premeditated malice. Manslaughter, then, is the act of murdering without intending to do so fatally or seriously. Even though it is less severe than murder, manslaughter is still a serious crime.


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