Defenses To Murder Charges

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingJan 02, 2019

When it comes to a California Penal Code 187 PC murder charge, this is a severe offense, and people are looking at a significant amount in custody. Therefore, we must utilize it if there is a defense available.  Various reasons are not functional in every case, and they spin on the facts associated with the particular case.

Defenses To Murder Charges Filed In Los Angeles

For example, one defense would be self-defense. Somebody attacks you, and you reasonably defend yourself, and death occurs.  You may likely have a self-defense argument. Also, believe it or not, defense of others. In defense of that person, somebody dies, you potentially have a complete defense based on the defense of others' argument. 

But of course, whether it be self-defense or defense of others, any defense maneuvers that you take that result in death — which would probably be deadly force – will have to be reasonable.  In other words, you cannot use deadly force to defend yourself or someone else unless it's likely under the circumstances.

Therein lies the potential defense in a murder case.  But again, of crucial importance is that whatever you do that results in that death must be reasonable under the circumstances.  Often, these cases will have to be resolved by a jury because what's likely to one person may not be appropriate to another.  The prosecutors and police may not agree on some of the facts you're utilizing to claim your self-defense or defense of others.

Justifiable Homicide

Another area that is good for defense for a murder charge is justifiable homicide.  This means a death occurs, and whatever occurred and however, it happened was reasonable under the circumstances.  In other words, maybe there's an accident.  Perhaps somebody's playing with a gun; for example, it goes off, shoots, and kills somebody.

That's not going to be a murder charge if you can prove that it was an accident because, for murder, you have to have the malice of forethought.  You have to think about it, and you have to try to kill the person intentionally.  If a gun accidentally goes off, that would be an example of a complete defense to the crime. 

Maybe some negligence could rise to the level of a crime, but again, whenever you're talking about an actual accident related to a murder charge, that can be a complete defense to the crime.

These murder charges can get a bit complicated when you're talking about defense because one problem that you have to realize is that typically, if the prosecutors file a murder charge against you or a loved one, they think that person has acted willfully defense is because one problem that you have to realize is that typically if the prosecutors file a murder charge against you or a loved one, they think that person has acted willfully and intentionally killed somebody.

They don't believe that there's any self-defense. They don't think the facts and circumstances typically that the defendant is trying to point out.  So, a lot of times, you argue about the facts.  In other words, one side says, here's what happened, and the other is saying, no, that didn't happen, here's what happened.  Here's why I did this.

Facts Supporting Your Defense

So, that's the first thing in a jury trial that you'll have to clear up as it relates to a murder case: the facts that you believe support your defense — whether it be self-defense or defense of others. You cannot use deadly force to defend property, so that's not a defense in a criminal case.  The old joke goes, " If you kill somebody who breaks into your house and you shoot the outside the home, make sure you drag him back in.

Of course, this is a joke.  I would never suggest that anybody do this, but the point there is, if somebody is in your house, you'd be much more likely to win a murder charge if you killed them because if the person were in your home, you'd be able to argue that you felt that you were in danger.   If somebody's running away with your TV set, for example, you can't shoot them in the back; that would be unreasonable.  You cannot use deadly force to protect property.

Honest Assessment of Your Case

So, the bottom line is, when it comes to these murder charges and the defenses related to them, you're going to need to sit down with somebody like me who's been doing this for twenty-five years.  We go over everything, and I'll be able to give you an honest assessment of whether or not you have a defense that can be successful. 

Sometimes people have a reason, but you're not going to win.  If you're not going to win, you don't spend the money to go to trial, and you don't take the risk of going to practice on a murder case; you need your defense attorney to resolve the issue and negotiate for you.

Negotiation To A Lesser Charge

Now, in these murder cases, because so much is on the line, sometimes, even if your defense attorney tries to negotiate and point out imperfect self-defense, that wouldn't be a complete defense; it might mitigate things down to a lower charge.  Sometimes the prosecutors say no, we're not going to give your guy anything, in which case you're going to go to trial anyway. 

But when you're talking about defenses in murder cases, you're talking about also lesser included offenses.  In other words, somebody may have killed somebody in the heat of passion, and the other party legally provoked that person who killed them, and maybe that's not a murder case; that's a voluntary manslaughter case.

So, even though the person is not guilty of murder, they're guilty of voluntary manslaughter.  So, in my opinion, that would technically be a defense because you're saying, if a person is not guilty of murder, you should never have charged the murder prosecutors.

Fine, they're guilty of something.  They shot the person.  They went too far, but they did it because they were in the heat of passion.  Maybe it was some crime where their significant other was with another person committing adultery.  They reacted to that unreasonably because they were very emotional — in shock — this is another defense in a murder case, and that is a lesser offense applies.  Different than murder.

Another big defense in murder cases is a mental state.  Sometimes people hallucinate.  Sometimes they're not operating in their right mind when they commit the offense that killing another person.  Sometimes, these mental defenses — depending on the circumstances surrounding the case — can be used to defend the case.  To either support the murder charge in the San Fernando Valley or mitigate it down to something less.

If you're charged with a first, you can mitigate it down to a second because of mental issues.  Or, if you're just charged with murder, you can mitigate it down to something less than murder because, at the time, you did not know right from wrong.  You could not formulate the intent for murder.

So, all these things are potential defenses in a murder case.  I know that I've tried many murder cases over my long career, and I've used all of these defenses when they were applicable under the circumstances of a particular murder case. Call us for a case review.