Tustin Murder Defense Attorney   

What Is Murder? 

murder chargesUnder California Penal Code Section 187, murder is the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought, as defined under California law, is a mental state in which a person intends to kill someone else or commit an act that he knows will endanger human life. Murder is one of the most serious crimes in California, and you need a skilled defense attorney on your side if you want to avoid spending your life behind bars. If you are accused of murder in Tustin, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. Call us today for your free consultation at (877) 4-NO-JAIL. 

Tustin Murder Prosecution 

In order to convict you of murder, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 

  • You killed another human being or fetus. 
  • You acted with malice aforethought. 
  • You had no valid defenses (such as self-defense). 

As explained above, malice aforethought refers to your intent. Malice can be either express or implied. Express malice occurs when you unlawfully intend to kill another person or fetus. Implied malice occurs when you engage in intentional and dangerous conduct that shows a conscious disregard for human life. 

Types of Murder Charges 

First-Degree Murder Charges 

First-degree murder is the most serious of all homicide offenses and involves the intentional killing of another in a way that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated. Even if you only took a minute to think about the killing before proceeding, this may be enough to constitute first-degree murder. In order to charge you with first-degree murder, you must meet the above elements for murder as well as the special circumstances stated in this section. Some examples that warrant a first-degree murder charge include: 

  • Using a weapon of mass destruction 
  • Lying in wait for the victim before killing 
  • Inflicting torture on the victim to kill 
  • Committing felony murder 

Capital Murder Charges 

Capital murder is a type of first-degree murder that occurs when special circumstances are met. There are approximately 20 scenarios that could lead to a capital murder charge. Some of the special circumstances that warrant a capital murder charge include: 

  • Murder for financial gain 
  • Murder of a public servant (police officer, firefighter, judge, elected official, etc.) 
  • Murder in a hate crime 
  • Murder of a witness to prevent him/her from testifying 
  • Murder to benefit a gang 
  • Murder of multiple people 

Second-Degree Murder Charges 

Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree murder does not require premeditation or deliberation. Rather, it is a catch-all category for intentional and sometimes grossly reckless killings that do not constitute first-degree murder. Some examples of second-degree murder include: 

  • Shooting a gun randomly into an occupied dwelling, causing someone’s death 
  • Driving drunk and causing an accident that kills someone 

New Felony Murder Rule (Senate Bill 1437) 

Beginning in 2019, Senate Bill 1437 changed the law around felony murder in California. Under the new felony murder law, you can be charged with felony murder if you commit or attempt a felony crime that results in one of the following: 

  • You kill a person. 
  • You aid or abet the killing. 
  • You are a major participant in the killing and acted with reckless indifference to human life. 
  • Your actions resulted in the death of a peace officer while he/she was engaged in the performance of his/her duties. 

The following felonies, if they result in the killing of another, can result in a charge of first-degree felony murder: 

  • Mayhem (PC Section 203) 
  • Torture (PC Section 206) 
  • Kidnapping (PC Section 207) 
  • Robbery (PC Section 211) 
  • Carjacking (PC Section 215) 
  • Trainwrecking (PC Section 219) 
  • Rape (PC Section 261) 
  • Lewd acts with a minor (PC Section 288) 
  • Arson (PC Section 451) 
  • Burglary (PC Section 459) 

If the felony is not listed for first-degree felony murder, the court may determine whether to charge you with second-degree felony murder based on the details of your case. 

Tustin Murder Penalties 

Murder convictions face the toughest penalties under law, including life sentences for capital convictions. Without a proper defense, you may be facing life behind bars. Under PC Section 187, the legal penalties for a murder conviction depend on the degree.

Penalty for First-Degree Murder 

The penalty for first-degree murder in California is 25 years to life in state prison. 

Penalty for Capital Murder 

The penalty for capital murder is either the death penalty by gas chamber or lethal injection or life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, in March of 2019, Governor Gavin Newson placed a temporary moratorium on executions in California, so prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty currently. 

Penalty for Second-Degree Murder 

The penalty for second-degree murder in California is 15 years to life in state prison. Some special circumstances do apply: 

  • If you shot and killed a victim in a drive-by shooting, the penalty is 20 years to life. 
  • If you killed a peace officer, the penalty is 25 years to life. 
  • If you intended to kill or cause great bodily injury to a peace officer, the penalty is a life sentence. 

Civil Penalty for Murder 

In addition to criminal sentences, the family of the deceased may file a wrongful death suit against you if you are found guilty of murder. This means that the court could order you to pay millions of dollars in damages to the victim’s family. 

Defenses for Murder 

With over 40 years of experience, our attorneys have successfully defended many clients accused of murder in Tustin and throughout California. Some of the effective defenses that we have employed include the following.


One of the most common defenses for murder is self-defense. In using this defense, you are essentially admitting that you broke the law by killing someone, but that the killing was justifiable under the circumstances. In order to successfully prove self-defense, your attorney must show that you: 

  • Reasonably believed you were in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death 
  • Reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend yourself 
  • Used no more force than was reasonably necessary 

Castle Doctrine: Self-Defense in Your Home 

In California, the Castle Doctrine states that you are entitled to stand your ground in your home and to defend it with force if necessary. To use this defense, your attorney must prove that you: 

  • Reasonably believed you were in imminent danger 
  • Reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to defend yourself 
  • Used no more force than was reasonably necessary 


Insanity is another defense in murder cases. This defense argues that you are not responsible for your actions due to a mental illness at the time of the criminal act. In order to plead insanity, your attorney must provide evidence that you: 

  • Had a mental illness at the time of the crime 
  • Could not understand the nature of your act or distinguish between right and wrong 

When you plead the insanity defense, the jury will first determine if the prosecution has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If they rule in the affirmative, the “sanity phase” begins, whereby the court will hear evidence from both sides regarding your mental state at the time of the crime. If you successfully plead the insanity defense, the court will require you to be held at a mental institution for a minimum of 180 days. Additionally, the court can commit you to an in-patient psychiatric facility for the rest of your life. As such, it is important to recognize that the insanity defense does not guarantee your freedom. 

Heat of Passion 

In California, a killing that occurs in the heat of passion or because of a sudden quarrel can reduce the sentence from murder to voluntary manslaughter. This means that rather than facing 15 years to life for second-degree murder, you may get a reduced sentence of up to 11 years in state prison. The heat of passion defense can be used when: 

  • You were provoked. 
  • As a result of being provoked, you acted rashly and under the influence of intense emotion that obscured your judgment. 
  • The provocation would have caused an average person to act rashly and without due deliberation. 

Accidental Killing 

As stated above, a murder conviction requires the defendant to intentionally kill another person. If you did not intentionally kill another, your attorney may be able to get your sentence reduced. For example, if you accidentally shot someone in a hunting accident, you should not be convicted of murder. 

Mistaken Identity 

Cases of mistaken identity happen more than you might think. In fact, around one-third of wrongful convictions are linked to inaccurate eyewitness accounts. If you have been mistakenly identified as the defendant in a murder case, your attorney can argue that you were wrongly arrested. One of our clients was recently released after DNA testing proved that he could not have committed the murder. 

Hiring a Tustin Defense Attorney | How We Can Help You 

When you are facing serious criminal charges in Tustin, you need a skilled attorney with a history of success in the courtroom. At Wallin & Klarich, we believe in four key aspects that set us apart from other firms: 

  1. Experience 
  2. Communication 
  3. Success 
  4. Credibility 

40+ Years of Experience Defending Murder Charges 

With over 40 years of experience and offices throughout Southern California, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich know the best strategies to use in the courtroom based on the specific details of each case. Our lawyers know how to use the most successful defense methods in even the toughest situations, often getting cases completely dismissed so that our clients have total relief. We are also familiar with the Southern California courts, having offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego. This allows us the additional advantage of knowing local prosecutors and judges. You, as our client, will undoubtedly benefit from our resources and knowledge.

24/7 Communication with Your Attorney 

We believe that communication and transparency are the foundation of success here at Wallin & Klarich. We guarantee that we will always be open and honest in our communications, and we are never more than a phone call or email away. We want to keep you updated on the details of your case and take time to listen to and address your concerns. With 24/7 open lines of communication, our attorneys are always here when you need us. 

Track Record of Success 

Our staff has a proven track record of success with thousands of clients spanning over 40 years. Because of the stigma of murder accusations and the potential for serious repercussions, you need a qualified and experienced defense attorney to help you achieve redress. We want you to be just as confident in our abilities, so we invite you to look at some of our clients’ success stories and big wins in the courtroom. 

Reputation and Credibility 

It can be challenging to choose the right law firm to defend you. Because our clients know we are committed to them, Wallin & Klarich has been a well-respected firm in the Southern California community for many years. Our team will continue to serve our community with integrity and excellence, and we hope that you will give us the chance to defend you as well. 


Discover how our skilled negotiators can help you fight a murder charge. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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