Homicide and murder cases tend to be highly charged cases that create a lot of public attention. As a result, prosecutors often feel pressured to secure convictions on as many charges as possible, with the most severe punishments available.

In California, homicide is defined as the act of killing another person, either lawfully or unlawfully. The law divides the criminal act of killing another human being into either murder or manslaughter.


Murder is defined in Penal Code section 187 as “the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.” First degree murder includes premeditated killings and felony-murder. Felony murder is when another person is killed during the commission of a violent crime, such as rape or robbery, among other serious crimes.

Penalties for a first-degree murder can be as severe as life in prison without the possibility of parole.

When the killing is done without premeditation, the prosecution will likely file a second-degree murder charge, which carries a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.


Manslaughter is defined and covered in Penal Code section 192, and may carry a punishment of up to 11 years in prison, depending on the type of manslaughter it is: voluntary or involuntary. Your penalty can vary greatly depending on whether you are charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Another category of manslaughter is vehicular manslaughter, which happens if a person kills another person in the act of driving, while 1) making an unlawful maneuver, 2) making a lawful act that carries the risk for death; or 3) knowingly causing an accident for financial gain.

Homicide Defense: Potential Exonerating Factors

  • The killing was done in self-defense
  • The killing was accidental
  • The confession or search of the evidence was obtained because of a violation of any of your rights protected by the Constitution (for example, the search and seizure were illegal; confession was coerced/involuntary, etc.)
  • You have an alibi proving you were not present at the scene of the crime, and the eyewitness is misidentifying you
  • If there are facts supporting a temporary or permanent insanity defense

Each homicide case requires a different defense strategy, which is why it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney the moment you are charged. You can contact us at (818) 210-3554 or fill out online form for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.