San Diego Homicide Attorneys
California Homicide is the killing of another human being and is prosecuted under several distinct charges. With the complex issues involved and shear volume of evidence, you can rest assured that many different groups of people will be working on you or your loved one’s case – both for and against! San Diego has scores of highly trained investigators, scientists and attorneys that prosecute homicide charges.
- First Degree
- Second Degree
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Involuntary Manslaughter
- Vehicular Manslaughter
- Murder Committed while committing a dangerous felony (aka “Felony Murder rule”)
There are other related charges such as “aid[ing], advise[ing], or encourage[ing] another to commit suicide” (California Penal Code 401), attempted murder (California Penal Code 664), negligent homicide of dependent adult (California Penal Code § 368) and many other homicide charges that the district attorney will allege.
Homicide Explained by San Diego Criminal Attorneys
Under California law, homicide is the killing of a person.
Homicide is a description, not a crime. A San Diego prosecutor will never charge you with homicide. The police, however, may arrest you for homicide. The police do this because killing another person is usually against the law. The crime the prosecutor will eventually charge you with depends on what the prosecutor believes he or she can prove. The following are the specific crimes that the prosecutor may charge against you. Click to jump to the specific crime, or continue reading about the theory underlying all homicide.
Murder (PC §187)
First Degree Murder (PC §189)
Second Degree Murder (PC §189)
Attempted Murder (PC §664)
Felony Murder (PC §189)
Manslaughter (PC §192)
Voluntary (PC §192(a))
Involuntary (PC §192(b))
Vehicular (PC §192(c))
Criminal law, and homicide in particular, is based on morality. The more “wrong” an action is, the more harshly society punishes an offender. The specific crimes, listed above, are ranked roughly in terms of severity of punishment.
Homicide focuses on four concepts.
The first concept homicide focuses on is mens rea, or a “guilty mind.” This refers to the state of mind that the defendant had when committing the crime. The basic concept is simple. If the prosecutor can prove that the defendant intended to kill another person, or knew that the action he or she took was likely to lead to the death of another person, then the prosecutor will probably charge the defendant with murder. Sometimes, despite intending to kill another person, a defendant has some mitigating emotional state, like being enraged. In these cases, a prosecutor may charge a defendant with voluntary manslaughter instead. If a prosecutor cannot prove that a defendant intended to kill another person, or took an action that the defendant knew would lead to the death of another person, the prosecutor will be forced to charge the defendant with involuntary manslaughter.
The second concept homicide focuses on is actus reus, or a “bad act.” The prosecutor must prove that the defendant is the person who actually caused the death of the victim. Like mens rea, the basic concept is simple. One example of a bad act is shooting a firearm at a human being. Another example is the defendant running a person over with his or her car. As with the guilty mind, the bad act can have mitigating factors. Acts must be voluntary. A defendant who fell asleep at the wheel and ran over another human being is probably not guilty of murder. Likewise, a defendant having a seizure who stabs a victim is probably not guilty of murder. There are sometimes other facts outside of the defendant’s control that can mitigate a bad act, even if the defendant voluntarily committed the act.
The third concept homicide focuses on is the joinder of the bad act and the guilty mind. The bad act and the guilty mind must occur at essentially the same time. If they do not, then a prosecutor cannot prove murder or manslaughter.
The fourth and final concept homicide focuses on is the killing itself. The death must be unlawful to count as murder or manslaughter. A defendant may intend to kill a person, and may actually shoot the person and killed them, and yet not be guilty of murder or manslaughter because the defendant reasonably feared for his or her life and is privileged by self-defense. A police officer may intentionally shoot and kill a criminal who has taken a hostage because the law privileges that officer to take that action.
Although the theory behind homicide is simple on its face, in practice the law is extremely complex. Some law students spend their entire criminal law class focusing exclusively on homicide. For our clients, the differences between the specific crimes that homicide entails can mean the difference between life in prison and being acquitted entirely. All crimes require the prosecution to prove that the defendant fulfilled every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” An experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at The Hullinger Firm, can use this standard as a shield. If the prosecution is unable to prove any element of their charge, then the jury must find the defendant not guilty.
Additionally, there are several defenses to each crime that our criminal defense attorneys can use as a sword. Even if the prosecution can prove each element of their case, an experienced criminal defense attorney can show that a defendant acted in self-defense, or that the defendant was otherwise privileged to act as the defendant did. This, too, can ultimately mean that the defendant is found not guilty.
Finally, an experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor. In some cases, the defendant is clearly guilty of homicide. However, prosecutors are extremely busy and often do not want to be forced to spend the time and resources necessary for a full trial, or even risk losing the trial to a sympathetic jury. The attorneys at The Hullinger Firm have experience negotiating with prosecutors, and have successfully pled clients to lesser forms of homicide. While no one wants to spend time in prison, spending five years in prison is clearly better than spending “25 to life.”
Our experienced homicide defense attorneys are ready to help you. Contact us today for your free consultation.
California Penal Code § 401 reads in full: “Every person who deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide, is guilty of a felony.” and is punishable by 16 to 36 months in California State Prison.
California Penal Code § 664 proscribes that punishment for attempting to commit a crime is typically 1/2 the attempted crime, however, most forms of murder are expressly proscribed the same punishment as murder.
California Penal Code § 368 defines and elevates punishment for crimes against the elderly and dependent.
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Scott Hullinger, Esq.
Criminal and Civil Attorney