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Murder Attorney in Los Angeles, California

In simple terms, murder can be defined as any unlawful and intentional killing of another person with malice aforethought — and unfortunately, it happens more often than you think. Statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program indicate that there were 29,400 reported incidents of violent crimes in Los Angeles, California, of which 258 were murder and non-negligent manslaughter cases. A defendant convicted of murder in California could be facing harsh punishment, including life without the possibility of parole, massive fines, a criminal record, and other life-changing consequences.

If you're under investigation for murder or if you've been arrested and are facing murder charges, retaining an aggressive and highly-skilled California criminal defense attorney will be critical in your fight for justice. At The Law Office of John Goalwin, we are dedicated to offering knowledgeable legal guidance and comprehensive representation to individuals facing murder charges. As your legal counsel, we will review the details of your case, explore all possible legal defenses, and outline an effective defense strategy as we pursue the best possible outcome for your case. Our team will fight aggressively on your side to defend your rights and ensure that you receive fair treatment at every phase of the legal process.

The Law Office of John Goalwin proudly represents clients throughout Los Angeles, California, and the surrounding communities of Van Nuys and Compton.

Overview of Murder in California

As mentioned above, the California Penal Code Section 187 PC defines murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought." In order to convict someone on murder charges, the prosecutor must show that the offender had express or implied malice towards the victim.

  • Express Malice - This indicates that the defendant deliberately intended to kill the victim.

  • Implied Malice -This indicates that the defendant acted with wanton disregard (without care) for human life or acted in an extremely reckless manner.

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California Murder Charges

Under California law, the unlawful killing of another person can result in any of the following charges, depending on the surrounding circumstances:

First Degree Murder

First-degree murder is any deliberate killing done with premeditated malice or malice aforethought. The prosecutor may charge the defendant with first-degree murder if the murder was committed under the following circumstances:

  • By using an explosive or destructive weapon

  • By lying in wait

  • By inflicting torture on the victim

  • By a deliberate, intentional, and premeditated killing.

  • Felony-murder – killing another person while committing a felony

  • Capital murder – this includes killing for financial gain, killing more than one victim, killing a witness, or killing a police officer.

Second Degree Murder

Second-degree murder involves any murder that doesn't meet the standards for first-degree murder. Under California Penal Code Section 187 PC, second-degree murder is the willful killing of another person, but not deliberate or premeditated. For instance, shooting a gun into a crowded space and killing a person. The defendant (shooter) had no intention to kill the victim.

Manslaughter

Under California law, manslaughter can be defined as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. There are three kinds of manslaughter, including:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter - This involves the killing of another person during a sudden quarrel, in the heat of passion (California Penal Code 192 PC).

  • Involuntary Manslaughter - This involves killing another person without malice, without an intent to kill, and without conscious disregard for human life (California Penal Code 192(b) PC).

  • Vehicular Manslaughter - In California, vehicular manslaughter involves a death as the result of committing an unlawful act while driving and driving with gross negligence (California Penal Code 192(c) PC).

Murder of a Peace Officer

Under California Penal Code Section 19.03(a)(1), a person commits an offense of capital murder if the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman.

Attempted Murder

According to California Penal Code 664/187(a) PC, attempted murder occurs when the perpetrator intends to kill another person, takes a direct step towards killing the person, but the intended victim does not die.

Possible Penalties

The possible punishment for murder charges in California usually depends on the defendant's state of mind when the crime was committed and a myriad of other surrounding circumstances. If convicted, the possible penalties include:

  • First Degree Murder: Punishable by 25 years to life in state prison or life imprisonment in state prison without the possibility of parole. Capital punishment (death penalty) is currently suspended in the state of California.

  • Second Degree Murder: Punishable by 15 years to life in state prison. However, aggravating circumstances, such as a prior murder conviction or the victim is a peace officer, can increase the sentence.

  • Voluntary Manslaughter: Punishable by three, six, or 11 years in prison.

  • Involuntary Manslaughter: Punishable by two, three, or four years in prison.

  • Vehicular Manslaughter: Punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

  • Murder of a Peace Officer: This is a capital felony, punishable by 25 years to life in California state prison.

  • Attempted Murder: Attempted first-degree murder (premeditated and willful) is punished by life in state prison. Attempted second-degree murder is punished by five, seven, or nine years in state prison.

Felony-Murder Rule

A major change in California law in 2019 has resulted in an end to the felony-murder rule. For the last 500 years, if you committed a burglary with a partner, and your partner decided to bring a gun and did not tell you, and later decided to brandish the gun and was killed, you could be held liable for murder. However, since the new law went into effect in 2019, you can no longer be held liable for someone else's malice.

Under California Senate Bill 1437, the felony murder rule only applies when a defendant:

  • Directly kills a person in the commission of a felony or in an attempted felony.

  • Is a major participant in the killing.

  • Aids and abets the killing.

  • When the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

Get Help from a Skilled
Criminal Defense Attorney

Defending yourself against murder allegations can be extremely difficult and may increase the risk of getting convicted and suffering the maximum penalties. If convicted, you could face huge fines, significant time in prison, and in some situations without eligibility for release — not to mention a permanent criminal record and other life-altering ramifications. Therefore, if you've been charged with murder, it is imperative that you retain a skilled California criminal defense attorney immediately to help protect your rights and begin strategizing a defense.

At The Law Office of John Goalwin, our legal team is dedicated to handling criminal cases and defending individuals who have been accused of murder. As an experienced criminal defense attorney, John Goalwin will review and investigate all of the surrounding facts of your case, craft an effective defense strategy, refute the allegations against you, and protect your rights at every turn.

Our firm will stand by your side at every phase of the legal process as we help you navigate the California criminal justice system. We will do everything we can to ensure you are given a fair hearing. Our team will dedicate every resource at our disposal to pursue the best possible outcome for your case. So don’t wait. If you or someone you know has been charged with murder, call or reach out to The Law Office of John Goalwin today for reliable legal guidance and strong representation.

Murder Defense Attorney
in Los Angeles, California

Don't face your murder charges alone. Contact The Law Office of John Goalwin today to schedule a one-on-one case evaluation. Our legal team can offer you the comprehensive legal guidance, strong advocacy, and aggressive representation you need to fight the charges you’re facing. Our firm is proud to serve clients throughout Los Angeles, Van Nuys, and Compton — so reach out today to schedule a consultation!