When facing murder, manslaughter, and assault charges in California, you want to have a criminal defense attorney who understands possible defenses that can apply to your case. The crimes carry the harshest penalties, which is why you need the best legal representation. At The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley, we are available to provide the legal assistance you need when facing these allegations.

California Murder

PC  187 (a) outlines murder as the illegal killing of a person or a fetus after maliciously premeditating or planning the death. Murder is a form of homicide that involves unlawful killing. Also, there must be premeditation or malice aforethought. It means participating in conduct or activity that has high chances of resulting in death. So, malice afforded doesn’t require any hatred or ill resolve against the victim.

Malice can be implied or expressed. Express malice is where you specifically intended to take the life of the victim. Implied malice, on the other hand, is when:

  • The death occasioned from an accidental act
  • The usual consequences of the action are a danger to people
  • The behavior was knowingly performed with knowledge if its risks and with cognizant contempt to human life.

Murder is categorized into:

First Degree

You will face first-degree murder charges if:

  • You kill using explosives, poison, weapons of mass destruction or by inflicting torture
  • By taking a life in a means that is willful, measured and planned
  • Through the felony murder rule

The form of murder includes but not restricted to:

  • Visiting another individual’s home with the intent to take his or her life
  • Waiting for an individual to return to his or her vehicle with intent to murder him or her
  • Making use of explosive or vicious devices to execute a murder

Capital Murder

The type of crime is punishable by the death penalty or incarceration for life deprived of the option of early release. The exceptional conditions that hoist this crime to capital murder include:

  • Murdering someone else for financial gain
  • Unlawfully killing more than one person with malice aforethought
  • Murdering a peace officer
  • Illegally killing another person with premeditation after committing, trying to engage, or instantly after the commission of any of the felonies that expose the suspect to murder laws
  • If you illegally kill a different person with malice aforethought because of their race, color, or nationality
  • Murdering another person through a drive-by shooting
  • Illegally killing a person for the gain of a criminal street gang

Second Degree

If murder is not first-degree, then it is second. Under this category, the killing can be willful, but it doesn’t have to be conscious or deliberate. The form of murder occurs where:

  • You have a DUI conviction but then end up killing someone in an accident whose cause is drunk driving
  • You fire a gun in a crowded room, causing the death of another person even if it wasn’t deliberate
  • You ferociously sucker-punched a smaller or intoxicated person so that he or she is sure of falling and thrashing the head on the concrete

Felony Murder Rule

The rule relates to first and second-degree murder and generates murder charges for any individual who kills somebody when committing a dangerous felony. No proof is required to show the casualty died in the continuance of the felony offense. Irrespective of whether the death was accidental, deliberate, or due to negligence, it will be related to the felony. If it is not a sheer twist of fate between the time and place of death and the commission of the felony, you will incur murder charges.

Significant revisions were done on the felony rule as per Senate Bill SB 1437 in September 2018. Under the new law, you will be subject to this rule if:

  • You were the actual killer
  • You as the individual with the determination to kill sponsored, assisted, counseled or assisted the real killer
  • You were a significant partaker in the original felony and proceeded with complete disregard of human life.

The rule also applies to the events where the person killed is a peace officer.

When proving you have breached PC 187, individual facts must be determined. These are:

  • You engaged in an act that ensued in the death of a human being or fetus
  • You had planned or premeditated the act
  • You had no legitimate pretext for killing the person

Penalties for Murder

For first degree murder, the sentence is twenty-five to life incarceration in a California prison. But if the conviction involves a hate crime, you risk facing life imprisonment without the possibility of conditional release. You would face life incarceration without parole if you killed someone because of their race, religion, gender, nationality, disability, or sexual orientation.

Under capital murder, the punishment is a death penalty or life imprisonment in state prison without conditional release.

When convicted of second-degree murder, the possible punishment is fifteen-years in a California prison. However, note that the penalties can increase because of the following in certain situations. These are:

  • If you have an earlier murder conviction, a second-degree murder conviction will face life imprisonment devoid of release on parole
  • If you intended to cause severe injuries to the dead person by firing a firearm out of a car, you would be subject to 20 years to life imprisonment for a second-degree murder conviction
  • If your casualty is a peace officer, the sentence will increase to 25 years to life incarceration
  • The sentence will become life imprisonment without early release where the person killed is a peace officer, and you explicitly planned on killing the officer. Also, if you precisely planned on causing significant bodily injuries on the official or took the life of the victim using a deadly weapon, you will incur a life sentence

On top of the above prison sentences, murders laws will subject you to:

  • A further ten, twenty, or twenty-five years in prison if you made use of a gun in the course of committing murder
  • A strike
  • Extra penalties if the offense is gang-related or a gun was used
  • Reimbursing the victim
  • Court fines of no more than ten thousand dollars
  • Loss of gun rights

Common Defenses for Murder

If you are facing charges for violating PC 187 (a), it doesn’t mean your fate is sealed. Some defense strategies can be applied to have the charges reduced or dismissed. These include:

  • Arguing that you killed a person when protecting yourself or another person from the imminent danger posed by the victim. However, for the theory to hold, you must show that the force you applied was reasonable and was used to repel deadly force.
  • Asserting that you killed the victim accidentally
  • It is a case of mistaken identity
  • The evidence against you was obtained as a result of unlawful search and seizure

Note that in most murder cases, the eyewitnesses are not very reliable. In such cases, you can use mistaken identification as a defense. Your attorney can also demand a line up to find out if the onlooker can quickly recognize the offender. The attorney can also challenge the previous lineups by the police to prove to the court that reasonable doubt exists regarding the identity of the person who committed the crime.

California Manslaughter

Manslaughter is outlined under PC 192. It is a form of homicide that involves killing another person without intent or premeditation. Although the acts that result in manslaughter are unintentional, they must portray negligence. The charges of manslaughter fall into three categories by the law. These are:

1. Voluntary Manslaughter

It is outlined under PC 192 (a) as killing someone else without mischievousness after a heat of passion to sufficient provocation or after an abrupt squabble. According to this definition, it means that there are certain circumstances in which you can kill someone intentionally without any legal excuse and not face murder charges.  You can also face voluntary manslaughter charges if you cause death because of your reckless disregard of human life.

The difference between manslaughter and murder is on the malice aforethought. When you kill somebody during an impulsive argument or heat of passion, it means that:

  • There was provocation
  • Due to the provocation, you acted impulsively and with intense emotions that buried your thinking and judgment
  • The incitement would have made a reasonable party act from passion instead of judgment

Keep in mind that the court will evaluate the duration between the provocation and when the murder occurred. If the prosecutor can demonstrate that you had enough time to cool off after provocation by the victim, then you will be facing premeditated murder and not manslaughter because of the conclusion that when you killed, you were thinking rationally and not out of intense emotions.

Also, for you to face manslaughter charges, there must be sufficient provocation. The objective standard here is that a fictional average person would have acted emotionally rather than logically under the same circumstances.

When proving that you are guilty of violating PC 192 (a), the prosecution must prove the following facts:

  • You engaged in an act that led to the loss of life by another person
  • When you acted, you intended to kill someone else illegally
  • During the time of the killing, there was no premeditation
  • Your actions had no legal excuse or validation

Furthermore, voluntary murder occurs when:

  • You engage in an act that leads to the death of another individual
  • The ordinary consequences of your act endangered human life
  • You were aware of the danger your actions pose to human life
  • You acted with reckless disregard of human life
  • You had no lawful excuse for killing another person

A conviction for breaching PC 192 (a) you will be subject to no more than eleven years in jail and court fines of no more than ten thousand dollars.

2. Involuntary Manslaughter

You will find the definition of this crime under PC 192 (b). The statute refers to involuntary manslaughter as unintentionally killing another person during the commission of a crime that isn’t fundamentally dangerous felony or a legal act that might result in death.  Same as PC 192 (a), PC 192 (b) doesn’t require malice aforethought. Based on this definition, you will be facing PC 192 (b) charges if, during the commission of a misdemeanor offense, you accidentally kill another person. Further killing a person while engaging in a lawful act that might produce death will subject you to these charges.

The death can be direct, due to natural causes or as a possible consequence of your actions. When proving you have violated PC 192 (b), the prosecution has to verify these elements:

  • You participated in an offense isn’t a felony or in a legal action that was performed illegally.
  • You engaged in the act with criminal negligence
  • Your actions resulted in the death of someone else

Based on legal duty, the definition of involuntary manslaughter is slightly different. The elements of failure to engage in legal obligation include:

  • You had a legal responsibility to the dead person
  • You failed to perform this legal duty
  • Your failure was due to criminal negligence
  • The catastrophe resulted in the death of the victim

The judge is the person who decides if you have a legal responsibility to the victim and not the jury.

The penalties for violation of PC 192 (b) are formal probation, two, three, or four years in jail or a fine nor exceeding $10,000. A civil lawsuit can also be pursued against you by the descendants of the deceased.

3. Vehicular Manslaughter

PC 192 (c) defines this crime as unlawfully killing someone else without malice while operating a motorized car when committing an unlawful act that doesn’t amount to a felony and with gross negligence. Note that you can still face PC 192 (c) violation charges in the absence of gross negligence if you caused the accident intentionally for purposes of financial fraud. The elements or facts that the prosecuting party must prove are:

  • While operating a vehicle, you engaged in a lawful act in a manner that could result in danger, or you committed a crime that doesn’t amount to a felony.
  • Based on the circumstances, your actions were a danger to human life
  • The commission of the behavior involved gross negligence
  • Your actions led to the death of another person

PC 192 (c)(3) defines vehicular manslaughter for financial gains. Under this subsection, you will be charged with violation of PC 192 (c) when:

  • While operating a car, you deliberately cause or take part in an accident
  • You do so intending to make a false insurance claim for financial advance
  • Your actions were a motivation by the need to defraud your insurer or another party
  • The accident results in death.

The penalties for PC 192 (c)(3) are summary probation, four, six, or ten years’ prison incarceration and court fines not beyond ten thousand dollars.

PC 192 (c)(2) penalties are a fine of one thousand dollars, a jail sentence of up to twelve months, or summary probation.

PC 192 (c)(1), on the other hand, is a wobbler, and the type of charges the prosecution will file against you depends on the conditions around your arrest and your criminal history. For a misdemeanor conviction, the penalties are summary probation, court fines amounting to as much as $1000 or up to 364 days in jail. If gross-vehicular manslaughter is charged as a felony, the punishment includes felony probation, incarceration in a California prison for two, four or, six years in prison.

Defenses for Manslaughter

it is possible to defend yourself against PC 192 charges avoid the harsh penalties of a conviction. Some of the legal arguments that you can apply here include:

  • Arguing that you are innocence in your case is a matter of mistaken identity
  • The charges of murder can be reduced to manslaughter if you show there was no advance premeditation.
  • The death was unforeseeable
  • You were defending yourself or others
  • During the killing, you lacked mental capabilities

Keep in mind that for these defenses to work, you need a profound criminal defense attorney, so you must be careful when picking your legal representation.

California Assault Crimes

PC 240 forbids individuals from attempting to use force or violence against another person. During a criminal jury trial, the prosecutor must establish these facts:

  • You engaged in behavior that would result in the application of force against someone else
  • You acted willfully
  • You knew of truths that would make an average healthy person believe that your actions would lead or directly result in the use of force against another individual
  • When you acted, you had the present ability to apply force

A lot of people confuse simple assault with battery. The crime of battery is as per PC 242, and it involves the actual use of unlawful force as opposed to attempting to use power in a simple assault.

Note that in the definition of simple assault, the use of force means touching someone rudely or offensively. Willfully, on the other hand, says that you acted on purpose.

A conviction for assault can incur you a punishment of no more than six months in jail, summary probation, or a fine of up to one thousand dollars.

Remember that there are various types of assault crimes aside from simple assault highlighted above. Here are some other types of assault crimes:

  • Battery
  • Aggravated battery
  • Assault with a deadly weapon

The main difference between aggravated battery and battery is on the extent of injuries. Aggravated battery requires that you cause severe bodily injuries while battery involves bodily injury.

A conviction for the simple battery will see you spend at most six months behind bars while a conviction for an aggravated assault can land you in jail for as much as 364 days or four years.

Assault with a deadly weapon is a felony in California. Most people think that this crime must involve a firearm. However, the offense is not always characterized by guns. Deadly weapons such as knives also apply in this crime. During the trial of ADW, the prosecution focuses more on the fact that you made use of a deadly weapon to threaten violence. It is not mandatory that you used the gun or caused bodily harm to the victim.

Sexual assault falls under the category of assault crimes. The offense is outlined as illegal touching of another person’s intimate parts to cause arousal, abuse, or gratification without the victim’s consent. The unlawful act is codified under PC 11164, the Sex Offense Statute.

Facing any assault crime charge is not a piece of cake. You will need a reliable and reputable criminal defense attorney to provide the best defense. Some of the arguments you can use to fight these charges include:


You or your attorney can assert that when the assault occurred, you were acting to avoid being hurt or killed. However, for the defense to hold you:

  • Must have reasonably believed that your life was in danger
  • Though you will be touched or harmed unlawfully
  • Understood use of physical force would prevent the potential injury
  • You used proportionate amount of energy to repel the danger

Defense of Others

Again, you can claim that you acted to protect someone else from being killed or hurt. The facts that must be proved in defense of others are similar to those of self-defense. 

Other defenses that can apply in assault crimes include lack of intent, mistaken identity, false allegations, and lack of energy to inflict violence or force. The defense strategy to be used depends on the circumstances on the type of assault charges you are facing. But in all assault charges, you will need a profound defense attorney who is aggressive.

Find a Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

For additional information on murder, manslaughter and, assault crimes and to know if you have been formally or informally accused, you should contact The Law Offices of Fountain & Hattersley at 626-793-4111. We recognize that your liberty is at stake. Thus, we will provide you with knowledge and deep insight into your legal options and fight aggressively to safeguard your freedom and future.