Los Angeles Murder Lawyer

Murder and Attempted Murder

First-Degree Murder. A person is guilty of first-degree murder if he or she committed a homicide with the specific intent to kill, that is, with willfulness, premeditation and deliberation. A homicide is committed with “premeditation” if the defendant reflected and considered his or her decision to kill. “Deliberation” refers to the defendant’s weighing of the considerations in forming the decision to kill. The process of “premeditation” and “deliberation” does not need to occur over an extended period of time and may take place within a matter of seconds. Further, “premeditation” and “deliberation” may still be found regardless of whether the defendant was suffering from psychological delusions or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A first-degree murder conviction carries a punishment of 25-years-to life in prison.

Second-Degree Murder. Any kind of murder, other than first-degree murder, will be charged as second-degree murder. In other words, if a murder was committed without premeditation and deliberation, the murder was committed in the second-degree. A person is guilty of second-degree murder if he or she intentionally committed an act that is naturally dangerous to human life, and despite being aware of this danger, deliberately acted and a death resulted. To be found guilty of second-degree murder, it is not necessary that the defendant actually intended that his or her act would result in someone’s death. Second-degree murder is punishable of 15-years-to-life in prison.

Felony Murder. Under what is known as “the felony murder rule,” when a killing is committed during the commission of certain felonies, the perpetrator(s) of the underlying felony will be charged with murder. The felony murder rule may apply regardless if the killing was done either negligently, accidentally, in self-defense, or by an accomplice. All the prosecution must prove is that the defendant is guilty of committing the underlying felony and that a death occurred in the commission of that felony. If the underlying felony is an enumerated felony, such as arson, rape, carjacking, burglary, or kidnapping, the perpetrator will be charged with first-degree murder. However, if the perpetrator commits a felony not enumerated, but is inherently dangerous to human life, then the perpetrator will be charged with second-degree murder.

Attempted Murder. A person is guilty of attempted murder if he or she acts intending to kill, and through his or her actions, if successful, would have resulted in murder. Unlike murder, attempted murder is not divided into degrees. The victim does not need to be the defendant’s primary target nor does any injury need to occur for a conviction. If the defendant intends to kill a specific person, but another person was within the “kill zone” of the defendant’s lethal actions, he or she may be found guilty of attempted murder.  Merely planning or preparing to commit murder is not enough to be guilty of attempted murder. A direct step toward killing another person must be proved. After taking a direct step toward killing, even if the defendant abandons his or her intention to kill, or is interrupted in taking further action to commit the killing, he or she may still be charged with attempted murder.

If you or someone you know is currently under investigation for murder, attempted murder or another violent crime, contact our offices immediately for a consultation.  Our lawyers have handled more than 100 murder cases, have tried more than 60 murders to verdict and have tried 6 capital murder cases to verdict.  We have a proven track record of not guilty verdicts as well as negotiating plea agreements wherein murder charges have been reduced significantly. View our case results