Definition and Aspects of Murder:
The unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought is also known as Murder, or California Penal Code 187 (PC 187). Murder is defined as committing an act that has a high probability of resulting in death and doing so with a blatant disregard for the other person’s life. Under California Penal Code 187 (PC 187), Murder can be first or second-degree.
The act of killing another person, whether it is legal or illegal, is known as a homicide. Homicide is a broad definition that Murder, manslaughter, and justifiable killing all fall under. Murder is the most aggravated type of homicide, with a malicious aforethought.
Malice or malicious aforethought implies that the Defendant did not care for the potential death of the Victim, or the high probability of it. Malice can be express or implied. When the Defendant had the clear intention of killing the Victim, he/she demonstrated express malice. Implied malice, however, can mean:
- The Murder resulted from an intentional action
- The action had dangerous consequences to human life
- The Defendant was aware that the action was dangerous to a human life and acted with disregard of that
Under California Penal Code 187 (PC 187), there are multiple different degrees of Murder one could be charged with. A first-degree Murder conviction could be:
- The Defendant utilized a weapon of mass destruction, explosive device, poison, or ammunition
- The Defendant lied in wait
- The Defendant inflicted torture (PC 206)
- The Defendant willfully and deliberately killed
- Or the Defendant killed someone while committing certain felonies
First-degree Murder that is punishable by either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole is known as Capital Murder (PC 190.2).
Unlike first-degree Murder, second-degree Murder is not premeditated; however, it is willful. This means that the Defended intended to cause serious harm or even kill the Victim at the time of the incident; however, it was not planned ahead of time.
Lastly, a Defendant could be charged with felony-murder if he/she killed someone while committing a dangerous felony.
To be convicted of California Penal Code 187 (PC 187), the Prosecution must prove the following:
- The Defendant was the cause of the death of another person (or fetus)
- The Defendant acted with malice aforethought
- The Defendant killed without justification or a lawful excuse
Examples of Murder:
A man finds out his wife has been cheating with a coworker. To get back at them, the man decides to go to the coworker’s house and wait for him to get home. The man then shoots the wife’s lover and kills him, portraying a willful and deliberate killing. The Murder was also premeditated, and the man would most likely be charged with first-degree Murder (PC 187).
In another example of California Penal Code 187 (PC 187), two men get into a fight at the bar. One party is a trained fighter and delivers a kick that knocks his opponent out. The unconscious man suffers brain damage from the injury sustained, and a few hours later passes away at the hospital. The Defendant, in this case, participated in an activity that could lead to serious bodily harm and acted willfully. He could be charged with second-degree Murder (PC 187). Since the act was not premeditated, this man would most likely not be charged with first-degree Murder (PC 187).
In the last example, a woman robs a grocery store, holding a gun to the cashier’s head while he puts the money into her bag. The woman is distraught and, in a moment of anxiety, accidentally fires the gun, killing the cashier on the spot. While the death was neither premeditated nor willful, Robbery is a felony offense, and the killing occurred while the woman was committing Robbery, making this a felony murder (PC 187).
Defenses for Murder:
A commonly used defense for California Penal Code 187 (PC 187) is self-defense. There are certain scenarios where California self-defense laws protect the Defendant from being prosecuted for Murder (PC 187). If the Defendant had a reasonable explanation to believe that he/she was in danger of being killed, suffering great bodily injury, being raped, robbed, or maimed, he/she has the right to protect himself/herself. In this scenario, an experienced defense attorney could aid in the dismissal of charges against the Defendant.
If the Defendant accidentally killed someone in a manner that was not willful or intended to cause harm and was otherwise not engaging in negligent activity at the time of the incident, the charges could be dismissed or lessened.
Another common defense is the Defendant not being guilty by reason of insanity. In this scenario, the defense would claim that the Defendant is incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, or he/she did not understand the nature and consequences of the act.
Lastly, a murder scene is a gruesome and disturbing experience for everyone involved. It is not uncommon that the police use coercive interrogation methods, which can lead to false confessions. If the Defendant felt that his/her family could be in danger, was threatened with the death penalty, or got an offer for a reduced sentence in the case of a confession, he/she might be tempted to confess to something he/she is innocent of. In this case, the court would most likely exclude the confession of the Defendant from the evidence pile presented to the Jury, and the charges could be dropped.
Consequences and Penalty for Murder:
The consequences for California Penal Code 187 (PC 187) depend on how the Murder is charged.
A first-degree murder (PC 187) is punishable with 25 years-to-life in prison. If the Defendant committed a hate crime based on the Victim’s gender, race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation, the penalty increases to life without the possibility of parole.
Capital Murder (PC 187) is punishable with the death penalty or a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Taking into consideration the risk of executing innocent people, California Governor Newsom had halted the death penalty in 2019.
Lastly, second-degree Murder (PC 187) is punishable with 15 years-to-life in prison; however, there are certain factors that can increase the penalty. If the Defendant has already served time for a prior murder sentence, he/she loses the right for parole. If the Defendant shot from a vehicle, the sentence goes up to 20 years-to-life. If the victim was a peace officer, the penalty is 25 years-to-life.
If at any time during the Murder, the use of a firearm occurred, an additional 10-25 years-to-life is tacked onto the sentence. The Defendant could face charges up to $10,000 and could lose his/her right to own a firearm.
Murder, under California Penal Code 187 (PC 187), is a serious offense that can result in prison time for life, and in some cases, even the death penalty. It is essential that if you or someone you know is charged with Murder, you contact an expert attorney as soon as possible.
For an experienced attorney on your side, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record of Murder related cases and speaking both English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Penal Code Section 187 (PC 187), Murder. Book a free consultation today.