Homicide occurs when someone unlawfully kills another human being. In California, a homicide committed intentionally may result in a murder charge.

How Does California Define Murder? 

California defines murder as the unlawful killing of another individual. The unlawful killing is done with the expressed intent to kill or an intentional act done to place someone in danger. The act has to be committed with the knowledge that it was danger and there was a disregard for human life. 

What Does First Degree Murder Mean?

First degree murder is the deliberate and willful act of committing homicide. The act is done with premeditation and deliberation. 

Is Second Degree Murder Harsher than First Degree Murder in California?

No. Second degree murder is less serious than first degree murder. It requires no intention to kill anyone. 

What is the Punishment for a First Degree Murder Conviction in California?

It carries a prison sentence of 25 years to life. There is no possibility of parole if the victim was a peace officer (e.g. a police officer). But there is also no possibility of parole if the murder was motivated by hatred of the victim’s:

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation 

Can a First Degree Murder Conviction Result in the Death Penalty?

Yes, a first degree murder conviction can result in the individual receiving the death penalty

What is the Punishment for a Second Degree Murder Charge?

The punishment for second degree murder can be 15 years to life in prison. The number of years in prison can be enhanced, or added, if the murder occurred with a weapon or was gang related. 

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Yes, always contact a California criminal lawyer in the event of a murder charge. The attorney will build a defense for you and negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf.