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Murder Charges

What is Murder?

Murder is the unlawful killing of a human, or a fetus, with malice aforethought. For instance, the way that not every DUI is the same, neither is every murder. Similarly, not every murder is punished equally. Additionally, Los Angeles Homicide Report publishes homicide victims’ stories.

Types of Murder

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. As a result, involuntary manslaughter is either charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction. Vehicular manslaughter, for example is considered involuntary manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter typically occurs when driving under the influence. Similarly, it can also happen while texting when driving.

Possible punishments for involuntary manslaughter:

  • Probation
  • Imprisonment of 2-4 years
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice; upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion. For example, killing a person in bed with your spouse is voluntary manslaughter. Similarly, killing someone in retaliation is also voluntary manslaughter. However, definitions can vary based on legal jursdiction.

Possible punishments for voluntary manslaughter:

  • Probation with up to a year in county jail
  • 3-11 years in state prison
  • Fines

First Degree Murder

First Degree Murder is the act of killing with a deadly weapon and the intent to cause serious bodily damage. For instance, lying in wait or torturing victims can result in a first degree murder charge. Lying in wait means the accused will hide and wait for a victim with the intent to kill. For example, hiding in a closet and fatally attacking the victim who opens it, you 

Possible punishments for first degree murder:

  • First, 25 years to life in state prison
  • Second, life sentence in state prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP)
  • Lastly, death (*punishment currently suspended)

Second Degree Murder

Second degree murder includes all types of murders not categorized in the first degree. For instance, second degree murder takes place if the accused accidentally kills their victim in an assault. For example, second degree murder can happen if you punch someone in a fight and accidently kill them.

Possible punishments for second degree murder:

  • 15 years to life in state prison
  • 20 years to life if the victim was killed in a shooting or from a motor vehicle

Attempted Murder

Attempted murder is an unsuccessful attempt to commit murder. Therefore, attempted murder takes place when the victim survives. For example, if you shoot at someone and miss, you cIn addition, attempted murder is divided into two degrees. Similarly, each degree has its own punishment.

Possible punishments for first degree attempted murder:

  • Life in prison with possibility of parole
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • A strike on your criminal record in regard to California’s three strikes law

Possible punishments for second degree attempted murder:

  • 5-9 year prison sentence
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Felony Murder

The Felony Murder Rule came into effect on January 1st, 2019. Therefore, certain circumstances can lead to a felony murder charge. First, proof needs to exist that the accused was the actual killer. Secondly, proof needs to exist that the accused helped aid and abet the killer in any way. Lastly, proof needs to exist of participation and intent. For instance, felony murder takes place when, arson, burglary, carjacking, kidnapping, rape, robbery, or sexual assault occurs.

Possible punishments for a felony murder:

  • First, 25 years to life in state prison
  • Second, life imprisonment in state prison without possibility of parole (LWOP)
  • Third, death (*this punishment is currently suspended)

Aggravating Vs. Extenuating Circumstances

Aggravating circumstances are factors that support a stiffer punishment. Above all, these factors include the degree of cruelty involved or other factors such as prior criminal history. As a result, aggravating circumstances may lead to a guilty verdict.

In addition, Extenuating circumstances are mitigating factors that support a more lenient punishment. As a result, extenuating circumstances can lead to an innocent verdict. 

Therefore, aggravating circumstances and extenuating circumstances differ. Moreover, these factors vary from case to case. In some instances, they will have a greater impact than others.

How To Fight Murder Charges

If you are innocent or believe that you were killing in self defense, you need an attorney. A murder attorney is different from a regular attorney on the basis of experience. A murder attorney knows what to expect and how to navigate murder charges. Above all, a murder attorney understands the stress of fighting murder charges. Therefore, you should contact an experienced murder attorney if you or anyone you know is facing murder charges. Lastly, call Stephen A. Varga today and begin a plan of action to fight your case!



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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Information about possible sentences are only provided to give the reader a general idea. In any given case, sentencing considerations can be far more complicated. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

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