Homicide is the unlawful killing of a human being. Depending upon the circumstances of the death, homicide can result in murder or manslaughter charges. Murder cases must involve “malice aforethought.” This means that the defendant either had express or implied malice at the time of the incident. Therefore, in order to be convicted of murder, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant either deliberately intended to commit murder or acted without care for the person’s safety.
If the prosecution believes that there was malice aforethought, the defendant will likely face murder charges instead of charges for manslaughter. There are two categories of murder charges: first-degree and second-degree. First-degree murder charges typically involve premeditated planning and intent to kill. First-degree murder cases must also involve a special circumstance such as the use of a weapon, an explosive device, armor-piercing ammunition, a drive-by or poison.
The penalties for first-degree murder in Orange County include imprisonment in state prison for 25 years to life, life imprisonment without parole or even the death penalty. Therefore, anyone facing murder charges must build a solid defense.
Potential circumstances that can reduce first-degree murder charges include:
- Self-defense: You have the right to protect yourself from immediate harm.
- Lack of premeditation: You can face murder charges for killing someone in the heat of the moment, but that is not first-degree murder. If the murder happened, but was not planned, the charges should be reduced.
- Insanity: Some defendants ultimately wind up in a psychiatric facility instead of prison because they are found legally insane or mentally ill. A jury will sometimes be tasked with determining if the defendant was legally sane at the time of the murder.
- Mistaken identity: In some cases, the wrong individual is accused of murder.
- Lack of evidence: There must be sufficient evidence proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Anyone facing serious criminal charges in Orange County should call an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney right away. The Law Offices of David A. Stein are available for a no-cost consultation on all criminal matters, including murder. Call 949-445-0040 today or contact us online here.