Homicide Degrees in Los Angeles   

1st Degree Murder in Los Angeles


California Penal  Code §187 Defines MURDER as the "the unlawful killing of a human being,  or a fetus, with malice aforethought".  The penalties for committing  murder can be life without parole or the death penalty.  

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Malice aforethought is often the critical issue in a 1st  Degree Murder Prosecution.  Penal Code § 188 states that malice  aforethought may be express or implied.  It is express when there is  manifested a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a  fellow creature. It is implied, when no considerable provocation  appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an  abandoned and malignant heart.


When it is shown that the killing  resulted from the intentional doing of an act with express or implied malice as defined above, no other mental state need be shown to  establish the mental state of malice aforethought.  Neither an awareness  of the obligation to act within the general body of laws regulating society nor acting despite such awareness is included within the  definition of malice.


First Degree Murder and Felony Murder 


Malice  aforethought can be shown during the commission of certain enumerated  acts under Penal Code §189.  All murder which is perpetrated by means of  a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction,  knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or  armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful,  deliberate, and premeditated killing.


The  mental state required to prove First Degree murder is implied, when a  Death occurs during the commission of certain inherently dangerous  felonies.  In California, this is called the Felony Murder Rule. When a  prosecutor has a case that is weak regarding evidence of malice  aforethought, they will often alternatively plead the felony murder rule  to meet the necessary mental element of malice aforethought.


Second Degree Murder


All murders  that occur without the requisite malice aforethought, meaning the act  was not intentional or deliberate, can be prosecuted as a Second Degree  Murder.  


Oftentimes, people think of Second Degree Murder when they  think of "heat of passion" as the cause of the events leading to death.   A common example is the unfaithful spouse or lovers quarrel type of  case, or a bar fight that became deadly.  Another common example is  reckless disregard for the safety of others. For example, you could be  charged with Second Degree Murder if you are speeding outside of a  school or mall at a busy time of day, and lose control of your vehicle  causing a death.


Common defenses to Second Degree Murder

  • Self Defense
  • Defense of Another
  • Innocence

Capital Murder


Capital  Murder is a First Degree Murder with Special Circumstances.  Due to the  particular facts and circumstances of a case, prosecutors may seek the  Death Penalty or Life Without the Possibility of Parole also known and  an LWOP.  The District Attorneys office Death Committee evaluates the  case to decide to allege the Special Circumstances enhancement.


The  penalty for a defendant who is found guilty of murder in the first  degree is death or imprisonment in the state prison for life without the  possibility of parole if one or more of the following special circumstances has been found under Section 190.4 to be true. 


It is imperative to  hire Murder Defense counsel if you are charged with these serious  charges.  Attorney Bradley S. Sandler has experience with Death Penalty  allegations, Murder trials, attempted murder charges and murder appeals.


Call 310-246-3900 or send an email to Bradley@sandlerlawfirm.com to schedule a consultation.

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It is imperative to  hire Murder Defense counsel if you are charged with these serious  charges. Attorney Bradley S. Sandler has experience with Death Penalty  allegations, Murder trials, attempted murder charges and murder appeals.