Understanding Murder Charges in California

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2019 | Criminal Defense |

Understanding Murder Charges in California

In common conversation, many terms are often used interchangeably. In everyday terms, murder, homicide and manslaughter can take on the same meaning, but in legal terms, they each have distinct meanings with very different consequences. To complicate this area of the law, murder has multiple degrees of charges, all which have different requirements and various punishments. California’s Penal Code goes into detail about each type of murder charge and the punishments that offenders face if they are convicted of the crime.


Simply put, murder is the unlawful killing of a human being by another human being. In order for a killing to be considered murder, there must be “malice aforethought.” This means that the person accused of killing another person must be proven to have a blatant disrespect for human life or committed an act that had a very high probability that death would result from the act. Murder is classified into two charges: first-degree murder and second-degree murder.

First-Degree Murder: In order for first-degree murder charges to be brought, one of the following must be met:

  • The murder was completed by means of a destructive device, poison or torture;
  • The murder was committed in a willful, deliberate and premeditated way; or
  • The murder occurred during the same time as certain felony crimes such as rape, arson, robbery or kidnapping.

Consequences for a first-degree murder conviction can be death, life in prison without the possibility of parole or a term of 25 years in prison to life.

Second-Degree Murder: If you are not charged with first-degree murder, you may be charged with second degree murder. According to the California Penal Code, all other murders which cannot be classified as a first-degree murder will be classified as a second-degree murder. Second-degree murder is not deliberate or premeditated but is willful.

The consequences of second-degree murder are 25 years to life in state prison.

Contact a San Jose, CA Murder Charge Defense Attorney

Murder charges are among the most serious charges a person can be accused of. If you are facing murder, manslaughter or other violent crime charges, you need to immediately contact a skilled San Jose, CA murder charge defense lawyer. At the Jachimowicz Law Group, we understand the gravity of violent crime charges. There are many defenses to violent crime charges, but it is best if you contact us to discuss your specific situation. Call us at our office to schedule a free consultation today.