Felony Murder FAQs California Murder Lawyers Penal Code 187 PC
1. What is the difference between first and second degree felony murder in California?
Felony murder in the second degree does not involve the element of premeditation resulting from an assault in which death of the victim is a distinct possibility. No plan was formed to kill another person. Felony murder in the first degree is a premeditated, intentional killing involving malice aforethought; or it results from a vicious crime such as arson, rape or armed robbery; and it also involves express or implied malice.
2. What does “malice aforethought” mean as defined in PC187?
Malice aforethought basically means intent. Malice aforethought may exist in two different forms, either of which satisfies the malice aforethought element in a homicide case:
- The conscious intent to cause death or great bodily harm to another person before committing the crime; or
- The intent to willfully act with callous and wanton disregard for the dangerous consequences to human life.
California law does not require that the defendant harbor any ill will, hatred or spite towards the victim. A demonstration of either of the above instances of malice aforethought will suffice for a felony murder charge.
3. Can I be convicted of felony murder if I kill someone in a DUI injury/accident?
Yes. You can be prosecuted for felony murder in California if you drive under the influence and cause an accident that kills another person. DUI second-degree murder is the most serious of California felony DUI charges. Unlike vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Penal Code section 191.5), which involves ordinary or gross negligence, a DUI murder involves allegations of implied malice or malice aforethought.
4. What is the difference between murder and manslaughter in California?
Murder is defined as the killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Manslaughter is defined as the killing of a human being without malice aforethought. A voluntary manslaughter charge may result if you, without any prior intent to kill, act in the “heat of passion” and cause the death of another. As long as you acted under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed, you may face manslaughter, not murder charges.
For example, if a husband comes home to find his wife sleeping with another man and kills both his wife and the man in a jealous rage, the husband could face voluntary manslaughter rather than second-degree murder.
5. Does California have a “Stand Your Ground” law?
Theoretically, yes. According to California Criminal Code Section 3470, you may be entitled to stand your ground and defend yourself or another person; if reasonably necessary to pursue an assailant until the danger of death or great bodily injury has passed. This is so even if safety could have been achieved by retreating. Provided that the court determines that your beliefs were “reasonable,” the danger does not need to have actually existed. Only a fear of imminent danger is required.
Where can I find the best California criminal defense lawyer to represent me if I’ve been accused of murder?
If you or someone you care about has been charged with committing murder, contact an attorney at Wallin & Klarich immediately. The sooner our attorneys can evaluate the evidence against you, the better chance we have to win you your freedom. With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, Torrance, Sherman Oaks, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experience ensuring that our clients are treated fairly under the law and that they receive the best legal representation possible. We will guide you through all of your options and help you obtain the best result possible in your case.
Contact us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL (466-5245) for a free telephone consultation.
We will get through this together.