Murder Prosecution – California Penal Code 187

Have you or a loved one been charged with murder in California?

Murder is a felony offense pursuant to California Penal Code Section 187. To prove you are guilty of murder, the prosecution bears a significant evidentiary burden. The murder lawyers at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experienced in defending against this burden. Contact our criminal defense attorneys today if you or a loved one is facing murder charges in Southern California.

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

  1. You committed an act that caused the death of another person or fetus;
  2. You had a state of mind that meets the element of malice aforethought; and
  3. You killed without lawful excuse or justification.

To show “malice aforethought,” the prosecution may prove either express malice or implied malice. A demonstration of either form of malice will suffice. If you or a loved one has been accused of murder, please know you are not alone. Speak to one of our attorneys today.

What is Express Malice?

Express malice exists when the defendant acted with the unlawful intent to kill. Essentially, this means that you premeditated the act. Premeditated means rationally considering the timing or method of committing the crime in order to either increase the likelihood of success, or to evade detection or apprehension. A murder lawyer at Wallin & Klarich can provide you and your family with the guidance and support you need during this difficult process. You do not have to go through this alone.

What is Implied Malice?

There are several elements the prosecution needs to prove in order to find you guilty of murder.
Murder crime scene investigation

Implied malice exists if the following four elements are present:

  • You intentionally committed an act;
  • The natural consequences of the act were dangerous to human life;
  • At the time of the act, you knew that the act was dangerous to human life; and
  • You deliberately acted with conscious disregard for human life.

The term “fetus” refers to an unborn human being that has progressed beyond the embryonic stage, namely after major body parts have been outlined. A fetus is generally said to exist after seven or eight weeks of development.

An act is said to “cause” death if the death is a direct, natural and probable consequence of the act and the death would not have occurred without the act.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about Murder PC187:

What is a situation where I could be convicted of murder for implied malice?

Consider this example two friends get drunk and stand on the edge of a highway overpass, they begin throwing cinder blocks at cars driving by in oncoming traffic. One of the blocks breaks a driver’s window and he gets into a crash and then dies. The friends could be charged with murder under an implied malice theory because even though they didn’t intend to kill anyone their actions were inherently dangerous to human life and likely to result in death or great bodily harm.

Another example where the district attorney has frequently prosecuted people under an implied malice theory are street races where a defendant may drive well above the speed limit during a race and then kill someone in a car accident. The da’s theory in these cases is that the speeding associated with street racing is inherently dangerous and that a defendant should be prosecuted for murder despite not intending to kill anyone.

Can I file a petition to be re-sentenced for a murder conviction?

Yes, in some circumstances. California has modified its murder laws to eliminate the offense of “felony murder” where some defendants were convicted of murder with the proof of malice occurring only from committing a felony. A typical case would be a situation where a person is a getaway driver for a bank robbery and one of his associates shoots and kills the bank teller, without the driver knowing about it or intending for anyone to have been killed. Prior to the change in California law, both the shooter and the driver could be convicted of murder since a death occurred and both were engaged in an underlying felony.

Since California has abolished the felony murder rule the driver can no longer be convicted of murder unless the prosecution has evidence that he intended for someone to be killed. It is no longer sufficient to show he engaged in the felony of attempting to rob the bank. Defendants who were convicted under the old felony murder rule or defendants who pled guilty to avoid going to trial and facing a conviction under the old felony murder rule can now petition to be re-sentenced under the new law.

What happens if someone is charged with murder but was not sane at the time of the offense?
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 he committed the crime he had a mental defect or disease and
  2. because of that mental defect he was incapable of understanding that his 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 goes to trial the case divided into two phases, the guilt phase where the jury must determine if the prosecution has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the sanity phase.

If a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he is not released from any court supervision for committing the offense. Instead, the defendant can be held in a mental institution for up the maximum amount of time he could have been held for committing the crime. In the case of a defendant charged 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.

Why should you hire an experienced murder lawyer at Wallin & Klarich?

The experienced, aggressive, and effective team of murder attorneys at Wallin & Klarich can effectively represent you if you or a loved one has been charged with murder in California.  With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, Torrance, Sherman Oaks, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, Wallin & Klarich has over 40 years of experience developing effective strategies to convince a jury to find our clients not guilty of committing murder. We will help guide you through all of your defense options and help you win your case.

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

We will get through this together.

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