How an Oakland, CA Murder Charge Lawyer Helps You
A compelling defense is vital to sway the final verdict in your favor. Your murder charge lawyer will help file necessary motions to suppress illegal evidence, exploit weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and present a robust defense at trial.
They File Motions to Suppress Illegal Evidence
Police and law enforcement may break laws while obtaining evidence to support the state’s case against you. However, your attorney fights to have illegally obtained evidence in your murder trial dismissed.
They Find Weaknesses in the Prosecution’s Case
Although the state is supposed to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it’s up to your criminal defense lawyer to introduce that doubt to obtain an acquittal.
Murder cases often rely heavily on forensic evidence, medical professionals, and electronic device experts for both the state and the defense to make their case.
Your Oakland, CA murder lawyer will introduce any discrepancies in the prosecuting attorney’s physical evidence, witness testimony, or other weaknesses to secure a not guilty verdict.
They Present a Powerful Defense at Trial
Often, the only way for the accused to clear their name is to present a powerful defense at trial. Your murder charge lawyer in Oakland, CA may claim several defenses depending on the facts of your case, including a claim of insanity or justifying the homicide through self-defense.
California Homicide, Murder, & Manslaughter Laws
It’s essential to understand the different California laws distinguishing homicide, murder, and manslaughter. Each offense is charged differently, and some may even be lawful.
Under California Penal Code § 187, homicide is the act of killing another person. It does not matter whether the killing was lawful or unlawful. This distinction can be made later by police when determining what criminal charges apply.
Murder specifically occurs when one person kills another in malice. This means there must have been a premeditated intention to kill the intended target. There are three types of murder charges you could face in Oakland, CA. These include:
- First Degree Murder – California Penal Code § 187 states that first degree murder is a killing that takes place after deliberation and premeditation. Felony murder, which can be charged when someone dies during the course of a specified felony, is another example of first degree murder.
- Second Degree Murder – Second degree murder is the killing of a human being without deliberation and without premeditation. It does not require any premeditated plan to commit murder. However, it does require that there was malice aforethought.
- Capital Murder – This is referred to as “murder with special circumstances” and includes the murder of a public servant, hate crime murders, and murdering someone for financial gain, among others. Capital murder traditionally referred to murders that were eligible for the death penalty. If the death penalty is not pursued by the District Attorney’s Office, the alternative punishment for capital murder is life without the possibility of parole.
Many assume murder and manslaughter are the same thing. But manslaughter charges are very different from murder charges.
Under California Penal Code § 192, manslaughter occurs when one person kills another without premeditation or malice. You might face three types of manslaughter charges in Oakland, CA, including:
- Voluntary manslaughter – California Penal Code § 192(a) states that this is when one person kills another during a sudden quarrel and without any premeditation to kill. These are also referred to as “crimes of passion.”
- Involuntary manslaughter – Under California Penal Code § 192(b), this involves killing another person without any intent to kill, without any maliciousness, but with a reckless disregard for another person’s life.
- Vehicular manslaughter – Under California Penal Code § 192(c), this is when another person is killed while driving or traveling in a vehicle.
These are just a few of the crimes you could be charged with when you are accused of being responsible for killing someone else.
As you can imagine, the consequences of a murder conviction are severe. If you are found guilty, your entire future could be on the line. Make sure you make every effort to clear your name. Attorney Seth Morris has secured dismissals and no-time deals on murder cases and people facing life in prison.
Penalties for a Murder Conviction in Oakland, CA
The judge and jury will be responsible for determining how much time you spend in prison, depending on the details of your case. In addition to prison time, there are many other criminal penalties you can expect because of your guilty verdict.
Factors That Influence Murder Penalties
The severity of the criminal penalties you will face can vary wildly depending on many factors. Some of these include:
- The specific details of your case
- Whether you have a prior criminal history
- Whether you have shown signs of remorse
- Whether there was malicious intent
- Whether there was intent at all
Murder Charge Penalties
Here are the criminal penalties you could face if you are found guilty of the following murder charges:
- First-degree murder – Up to 25 years in prison; increased to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of a hate crime.
- Second-degree murder – Between 15 years to life in prison; possible sentence modifications depending on aggravating factors.
- Capital murder – Life in prison without the possibility of parole. The state of California does allow for capital punishment by lethal injection.
- Voluntary manslaughter – Up to 11 years in state prison; fines up to $10,000.
- Involuntary manslaughter – Up to four years in prison; fines as high as $10,000.
- Vehicular manslaughter – Up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor; up to 10 years in prison for a felony.
You could also face additional penalties for jail time and fines that include:
- Community service
- Random drug and alcohol testing
- Completion of the drug or alcohol treatment
- License suspension or revocation
- Restitution for victims
- Court-ordered mental health counseling
The collateral consequences of a murder conviction are undeniable. Common ways you may deal with the fallout of your conviction include:
- Citizenship and immigration issues
- Child custody or visitation troubles
- Revocation or suspension of your professional licenses
- The destruction of your professional and personal reputations
- Once paroled, difficulty finding safe and affordable housing
- Once paroled, trouble finding gainful employment
- Becoming ineligible for federal student funding
- Loss of firearm rights
- Temporary loss of voting rights
- Difficulty traveling
Defending Murder Charges in Oakland, CA
Every murder charge is different. The approach that your murder attorney will take varies depending on the facts of your case.
Here are some potential defenses that could be used:
Justifiable homicide claims that you acted in self-defense. To prove self-defense, your attorney must show that you used a reasonable use of force to resist a reasonable fear of bodily harm or death. Other elements that must exist include:
- You cannot have instigated the situation that caused the threat in question
- The degree of force used must have been proportional to the alleged threat
- The action you took to the threat in question must have occurred before the threat of bodily harm or death had ended
California is a “stand your ground” state and does not require defendants arguing self-defense to retreat or attempt to avoid danger prior to resorting to the use of deadly force.
Other types of justifiable homicide include:
- Battered woman syndrome – Women living in abusive relationships may use battered woman syndrome to explain the killing of their abusers.
- Exercise of duty – Killings made by public officers or law-enforcement may be considered justified homicides if the death occurred without unlawful intent or in the exercise of duty.
- Defense of others – This is used when one person defends another from harm when they believe that force was the only way to intervene.
The Insanity Defense
To use the insanity defense, your attorney must prove that:
- You did not realize that you were committing an illegal or morally wrong act
- You did not have the cognitive awareness needed to understand the act you were committing
- You were suffering from certain conditions such as postpartum psychosis, hallucinogenic delusion, diminished capacity, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Although many view the insanity defense as an easy way out, nothing could be further from the truth. Individuals found guilty due to insanity may spend decades or the rest of their lives in an institution instead of a prison or being released back to the public.
A Crime of Passion
Also referred to as “heat of passion,” crimes of passion are not considered premeditated but are instead a spontaneous reaction to extreme emotional distress. This defense is only appropriate in cases where the murder is an immediate response to the threat in question and not as an act of revenge.
An example of a crime of passion could include a person shooting their spouse after finding their partner engaging in sexual acts with another person.
Your Oakland, CA murder lawyer will carefully examine the evidence and details of your case to determine which defense strategy is most likely to result in an acquittal or favorable outcome in your case.