California Murder Lawyers – Penal Code 187

Are You in Need of a Murder Attorney in California?

Murder is a very serious crime that is prosecuted aggressively in California. A defendant can be convicted of either first or second degree murder.

Murder in the first degree is when a person kills another person with deliberation and premeditation. Murder in the second degree occurs without premeditation.

A first degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. A murder conviction in the 2nd degree requires an automatic sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

That is why it is essential for you to hire an experienced Wallin & Klarich murder defense attorney if you are being charged with murder in California.

Why Hire Wallin & Klarich?

logosThe success of our murder defense firm has helped us achieve the highest of merits, including a 5 out of 5 AV rating on, a 10 out of 10 rating on, and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

For over 40 years, the murder lawyers at Wallin & Klarich have helped many people like you who have been charged with murder. Here are just a few testimonials provided by some of our previous clients who wanted to share their stories:

“I was referred to Wallin & Klarich after being charged with 1st Degree Murder along with 2 other defendants as a result of a drug deal gone bad in Riverside County. I was roped into the thumping of a friend at the hands of crazed parolee and his sidekick. I feared for my life at the time and didn’t stop them even though I should have. I will regret that decision the rest of my life as they beat my friend to death and left him for dead in an abandoned field wrapped in a tarp. Wallin & Klarich made tireless efforts to prepare my defense and pushed hard for a reduced charge and sentence along with my testimony against the others….but to no avail. I was prepared to take responsibility for my actions but we were forced to go to trial. The trial lasted a month with countless witnesses being called. Wallin & Klarich aggressively cross-examined the DA’s witnesses and in closing argued to the jury that I had acted out of fear and duress. Wallin & Klarich presented a reasonable and plausible defense….they presented the facts without the hype! In the end, my co-defendants were found guilty of all of the charges and the jury deadlocked on my charges, which would lead to a possible 2nd trial. With that knowledge, the DA’s finally backed off the 1st degree murder charges and offered me a lesser charge to avoid a 2nd trial. After lengthy discussions with my attorney and family, I accepted the plea bargain….which is what we had been striving for before trial. I would recommend Wallin & Klarich to others charges with serious crimes.”



“I was arrested and charged with 1st Degree Murder for the killing of a man and Attempted Murder of another in a connection with a gang-related shooting in a neighborhood in San Bernardino County. Even though the evidence was stacked against me and I was facing 2 LIFE terms, my family took the chance on hiring a private attorney. We were referred to Wallin & Klarich. Wallin & Klarich assigned one of its partners to my case. After lengthy discussions and analysis of the evidence and law, my attorney advised me that the best we could hope for getting the charges reduced to voluntary manslaughter, which would prevent any LIFE terms and give me a chance at life again after serving a determinate sentence. I agreed and was very happy to hear that I had a chance to redeem myself after serving my punishment as the other inmates and the public defender didn’t give me any hope at all of seeing the light of day. After several months of aggressive negotiations, Wallin & Klarich was able to attain a plea bargain to voluntary manslaughter and a determinate sentence! I was able to avoid LIFE in prison and look forward my rehabilitation and eventual release at a relative young age still. Thank you Wallin & Klarich for believing in me.”



“I was verbally assaulted with a friend outside a taco shop in Los Angeles County. In fear of our safety, I went to my car and pulled out a gun I use for security at work and shot one of the assailants. I was arrested and charged with Attempted Murder and was facing LIFE in prison. I hired Wallin & Klarich to represent me. Wallin & Klarich worked aggressively to build my defense. I knew I should have just left the scene when I got in my car to get my gun as I had time to do so, but I wasn’t of my right mind at the time and just responded to the verbal assault in the manner I did. I was willing to accept some responsibility but not LIFE in prison! In the end, Wallin & Klarich attained an offer to plead to assault with a weapon and be placed on PROBATION! I snapped that up right away and have been home enjoying my wife and children ever since. Wallin & Klarich gave me my family back. Thank you.”


Call Wallin & Klarich Today

You can place your trust in Wallin & Klarich. Our knowledgeable California murder lawyers are committed to defending your rights and your freedom. Call us today for immediate help on your murder case.

For more information on murder laws, read below or simply pick up the phone and speak to one of our skilled murder attorneys today.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation.


What are the murder laws in California under Penal Code 187?

Under California Penal Code Section 187 (PC 187), murder is defined as causing the death of another person or fetus with malice aforethought. If you or a loved one is being charged with violating murder laws in California, you must contact an experienced murder lawyer at Wallin & Klarich today.

“Malice aforethought” is defined as:

  1. The conscious intent to cause death or great bodily harm to another person before committing the crime. Such malice is a required element to prove first or second degree murder.
  2. A general evil and depraved state of mind in which the person is unconcerned for the lives of others.

If you or a loved one is being charged with violating murder laws in California, you should contact an experienced murder lawyer at Wallin & Klarich today.

What if the murder was accidental and not premeditated

California law does not require that you planned or premeditated to murder someone, nor does the law require that you harbored animosity towards the victim. You can be charged with second-degree murder even if you did not commit the murder with premeditation.

In this section, the lawyers at Wallin & Klarich wish to share with you how you can be prosecuted for murder (“homicide”). We will also cover possible defenses to this crime and the range of sentencing you may face upon a criminal conviction for violation of PC 187.

We will include some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on California murder laws and conclude with some testimonials from previous clients.

Prosecution for Murder in California

The prosecution must prove three distinct elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of murder:

  1. Your actions caused the death of another person or fetus; and
  2. Your mental state at the time of the act constituted malice aforethought, and
  3. You had no valid excuse or justification for your actions

Defenses to Murder in California

homicide crime scene
There are several defenses that a skilled attorney can use in your murder case.

There are several defenses that a skilled attorney can use in your murder case.

The highly skilled and knowledgeable murder attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have successfully defended many clients charged with homicide in California for over 40 years. There are a number of successful, possible defenses to murder charges in California. These defenses include:

  • Self-Defense/Defense of Others
  • Insanity
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Accidental Killing
  • Killing in the Heat of Passion


It is an affirmative defense to the crime of murder if a person acts in reasonable self-defense. A person claiming that they’ve acted in self-defense must show that:

  1. They reasonably believed that they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm
  2. They reasonably believed the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that danger and
  3. They used no more force than was necessary

Consider the following example:

While walking home Jim is approached by a man who demands that he turn over his wallet. When Jim hesitates the man lunges at him with a knife. Jim is lawfully carrying a gun and shoots and kills the man who is attempting to rob him.

In that situation Jim would likely be able to claim that he acted in reasonable self-defense. Even though the robber had not yet attacked him, he was in imminent danger of being attacked and acted to prevent himself from being killed or suffering great bodily harm.

Remember the use of force must be reasonably related to the amount of threat a person is facing. In a case where a person is accused of using deadly force, the threat must be either a threat of death or great bodily injury.

Consider a situation where two men are involved in a fist fight outside of a bar. One of the men then pulls out a gun and kills the other man.

In this situation the shooter would not likely be able to claim self-defense because he did not face a deadly threat that warranted the use of deadly force.

Self-Defense in a Home

There is a different calculation for claims that they were acting in self-defense against a person who has intruded into their home. A person may use self-defense, including deadly force if they are in their home and the following requirements are met:

  1. The person reasonably believed they were defending against an act of violence in their home
  2. The person believed that the danger was imminent
  3. The defendant believed that the use of deadly force was necessary and
  4. The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary

In cases where people are threatened in their home it is not necessary for them to show that they feared great bodily injury or death as long as they are able to show that they were threatened with violence while in their homes and acted reasonably in using deadly force.


In cases where a defendant has a mental disorder that prevents him from understanding that his actions are morally wrong he can plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

To show a defendant is not guilty of murder by legal insanity the defendant must present sufficient evidence that:

  1. When they committed the crime they had a mental defect or disease and
  2. Because of that mental defect, they were incapable of understanding that their action was morally or legally wrong

A defendant’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity can be in addition to a plea of not guilty. When a defendant who has pled not guilty by reason of insanity and not guilty to the underlying charge has his or her case go to trial the case is divided into two phases. First there is the guilt phase where the jury must determine if the prosecution has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and if the jury finds the defendant guilty then there the trial goes into the “sanity phase” of the trial.

If a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they are not automatically released from any court supervision for committing the offense. Instead, the defendant can be held in a mental institution for up to the maximum amount of time he could have been held for committing the crime. In the case of a defendant charged with murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity the defendant could potentially be held in a mental institution for the rest of his life. A court is required to hold a defendant in an in-patient facility for a minimum of 180 days.


Dave suffers from mental health issues including paranoid schizophrenia. One day he hears voices telling him the world is ending and that he must kill his friend or he will die. He then kills his friend while delusional. At trial Dave could be found not guilty by reason of insanity if the jury believed his mental health condition prevented him from determining that killing his friend was wrong.

Mistaken Identity

One example of a defense to murder is that a death may have occurred, but the police have arrested the wrong person. Mistaken identity can occur in several ways.

One example is a flawed eyewitness identification, for example, a witness picks someone they believe was the murder out of a photo lineup, but picks the wrong person. Research has shown that faulty eyewitness identification is the cause of wrongful convictions in about 1/3 of wrongful conviction cases.

A prominent example of eyewitness identification leading to a wrongful conviction is the Central Park jogger case where a woman was assaulted and raped while jogging in Central Park. 5 teenagers were arrested, charged and convicted of the assault based on a case of mistaken identification despite their DNA not matching DNA from the crime scene. Years later they were freed when additional DNA testing showed that a convicted murderer had committed the crime.

Wallin and Klarich recently represented a man charged with murder who was similarly freed after additional DNA testing showed that a key piece of evidence did not match the suspect.

Accidental Killing

Because a conviction for murder requires that the defendant killed the other person intentionally. It is a defense to a murder charge if the defendant killed the other person accidentally.

Consider the following example: two men are hunting, while cleaning his hunting rifle the first man accidentally discharges the rifle, hitting and killing the second man. Because he did not intend to shoot the other man, he should not be found guilty of murder.

Killing in the Heat of Passion

A person who kills another person while acting in the heat of passion is not guilty of murder. A person claiming a heat of passion defense must show that:

  • the accused acted in the heat of passion
  • the person who was killed provoked the defendant
  • the defendant did not take unfair advantage of the person who was killed
  • the defendant did not use a dangerous weapon
  • the defendant did not kill the other person in a cruel way
  • the defendant did not intend to kill the other person and
  • the accused was not criminally negligent

Consider the following example:

Rob is sitting in his car when he is approached by a man who points a gun at him and demands his money. After giving the money to the robber Rob follows him and gets into a fist fight where he punches the robber several times, killing him.

This situation could constitute a heat of passion defense because Rob’s actions were due to the stress of having just been robbed; a situation which could cause a person into intense emotion that obscures reasoning or judgment.

Sentencing and Punishment for a Murder Conviction in California

Sentencing and punishment for a murder conviction in California is severe. You may be exposed to a life without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) sentence in state prison or possibly the death penalty. You may also face a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court, which may lead to monetary damages in the amount of millions of dollars owed to the family of the victim(s).

Consulting with an experienced and aggressive murder lawyer in the earliest stages of investigation or upon arrest is the most effective way to avoid these potentially life-altering penalties.

Speak to an experienced murder lawyer at Wallin & Klarich today

When you or a loved one is facing murder charges in California you may only get one chance to hire the most experienced murder defense law firm. Do your research before deciding which law firm will provide you or your loved one the best possible defense. The murder lawyers at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experience handling murder cases in Orange County, Los Angeles, Torrance, Sherman Oaks, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, West Covina, and Victorville.

Our team of seasoned litigators has the knowledge and expertise to structure and implement your most effective defense.

If you or someone you love is facing murder charges, you should contact an attorney at Wallin & Klarich today. We can provide you with the most aggressive defense possible and help you win your case.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

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