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Punishment for Murder in California – PC 187

The punishment for murder in California depends upon whether you or your loved one is convicted of:

  1. Capital murder
  2. First-degree murder
  3. Second-degree murder

If you are convicted of any category of murder, not only will you be sentenced to state prison (and perhaps death row),  you will also most likely have to serve your sentence at a maximum security (“Level IV”) prison along with the most dangerous convicted felons in the state. Murder is a violent felony punishable under California’s “Three Strikes Law” (Penal Code 667.5(c)). Therefore, a murder conviction in California carries the maximum punishment and sentencing range, including enhancements if you have a criminal record with prior serious or violent felonies.

Punishment for capital murder


Capital murder is the most serious charge under California murder law. If your case involves one of the special circumstances that elevates first-degree murder to capital murder, you could face the possibility of execution. The punishment for capital murder consists of:

  • The death penalty  (either the gas chamber or lethal injection), or
  • A prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP)

Punishment for first-degree murder


If convicted of murder in the first-degree under California Penal Code 187, you face 25 years-to-life in state prison. However, if your first-degree murder conviction was based on a “hate crime,” defined as a crime committed based on the victim’s race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or nationality, you face a murder sentence of life without the possibility of parole in state prison. (LWOP)

A “life sentence without the possibility of parole” (LWOP) means just that: You will spend the rest of your life in prison and will not be eligible for release on parole.

Punishment for second-degree murder

If you are convicted of murder in California, you will be sentenced to prison.
If you are charged with murder in California, you do not have to face this process alone. Speak to us today.

The punishment for murder you face if found guilty of second-degree murder under California Penal Code section 187, consists of 15 years-to-life in state prison. However, there are some circumstances that can increase your potential murder sentence, such as the following:

  • If you have previously served a sentence for a murder conviction, you face life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP)
  • If you killed your victim by shooting a firearm out of a vehicle with the intent of causing serious injury – a “drive-by shooting” – you can be sentenced to serve 20 years-to-life
  • If your victim is a peace officer, your sentence increases to 25 years-to-life
  • You face life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) if your victim is a peace officer and you:
    1. Specifically intended to kill the officer,
    2. Specifically intended to inflict great bodily injury on the officer, or
    3. Killed the officer using a deadly weapon or firearm.

Additional punishment for murder convictions

In addition to the prison terms above, California murder laws subject you to:

  • An additional 10, 20 or 25-years to life in prison if you personally used a firearm during the commission of the murder; and
  • Additional sentencing enhancements if the offense is gang-related; and
  • Victim restitution; and
  • A maximum $10,000 fine, and
  • The permanent loss of  your right to own or possess a firearm pursuant to Penal Code section 12021, California’s “Felon with a Firearm” law

Civil consequences to a murder conviction

If you are convicted of murder, you may also face a wrongful death suit filed against you in civil court by the family(s) of your victims(s). The cost to you or your loved ones could be enormous – possibly in the range of millions of dollars.

Contact a murder lawyer at Wallin & Klarich now if you have been accused of murder in California.

The punishment for murder is one of the harshest under California criminal law. Our attorneys have over 30 years of experience defending clients facing homicide charges in California. Call Wallin & Klarich today.
Murder carries some of the harshest penalties under the California Penal Code.

If you or someone you care about has been charged with murder under California Penal Code 187, 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 30 years of experience developing highly effective strategies to prove that reasonable doubt exists that our clients are not guilty. We will aggressively defend you every step of the way and help you to achieve the best possible result in your case.

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

We will get through this together.

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California DUI Defense Lawyer Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee. Please contact a criminal attorney for a consultation on your particular legal matter. This web site is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the state of California. * Wallin & Klarich Attorney Joshua Visco