Second-Degree Murder in California
The penalties and definitions for crimes such as second-degree murder can vary a lot between states, so in this article, we will discuss the specifics of second-degree murder in California.
What Is Defined As Second-Degree Murder in California?
There are a number of different scenarios that could be charged as second-degree murder in California. Here are some examples of second-degree murder:
- No intention to kill, but the action had a high probability of killing someone. For example, shooting into a crowd of people or firing a weapon in a room full of people. Repeat drunk drivers are the most common example of this type of second-degree murder.
- Intention to cause serious harm and the action could cause death. For example, delivering a blow to the head or shooting someone with no intent to kill them.
- Felony murder. For example, accidentally killing someone while raping them.
What Is the Difference Between First-Degree Murder and Second-Degree Murder in California?
First-degree murder is intentional and shows some sort of planning. The prosecutor will need to show that the defendant thought about the crime in advance and intended to kill their victim in order to get a first-degree murder conviction. Someone may be charged with first-degree felony murder if they directly killed the person. Second-degree felony murder is for the other people committing the felony that did not kill the person.
First-degree murder is a serious crime, and therefore the most severe criminal actions would result in this charge. For example, if someone uses an explosive device or a weapon that could kill multiple people to kill one person, they will be charged with first-degree murder, and the penalties will be much more serious.
For a second-degree murder charge, the prosecutor does not need to prove those things. They will just need to show that the defendant either made a spontaneous decision to kill their victim or that they knew that their actions could cause the death of their victim. Most murders that are not categorized as first-degree murders will be charged as second-degree murder in California.
What Are the Penalties For Second-Degree Murder in California?
Second-degree murder is a felony in California and therefore carries a lot of prison time. Depending on the circumstances of the crime and the discretion of the court, a defendant convicted of second-degree murder in California may receive a state prison sentence of between 15 years and life. California law provides some guidance for scenarios of second-degree murder that may carry harsher penalties like longer sentences or no possibility for parole. Some of these are:
- Killing law enforcement officers or people acting in their official duties
- A criminal record with prior murder convictions
Defenses For Second-Degree Murder in California
If you are charged with second-degree murder in California, you need to speak to a criminal defense lawyer and create a defense strategy. A second-degree murder charge could result in a life prison sentence, so you will need legal help.
Your attorney can advise you on the best legal defense based on the circumstances of your case. They will be able to tell you what will help in defense to a second-degree murder charge and what will not. Here are some examples of common second-degree murder defenses:
- The killing was an accident
- You were acting in self-defense when you killed someone
- You were coerced into confessing to the murder
- You were insane (by legal standards) at the time of the murder
- An illegal search and seizure led to your arrest