PENAL CODE §§187, 192(A), 192(B), AND VEHICLE CODE §191.5(B)

The laws of homicide are multi-layered and surprising to most. But if you can think of how many ways a person can lose their life in the hands of another, consider how many laws have to cover the liability for it.


To be charged with murder in the first-degree, one either (1) uses a destructive device or weapon or lies in wait for their victim, (2) commits a killing that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated, (3) or by committing a felony-murder killing. Each type of first-degree homicide carries with it a penalty of 25 years to Life in prison.


The easiest way of thinking about second-degree murder is any other kind of killing that is not first-degree. Therefore, a person can be liable for murder in the second-degree when they are reckless or negligent to the point that they risk the death of a human being. The penalty for second-degree murder is 15 years to Life in prison.


A person can be arrested or charged for voluntary manslaughter if they commit a killing as a result of a “sudden quarrel” or a “heat of passion”. Voluntary manslaughter is not committed with malice. Instead, it is a killing that is done relatively spontaneously and without time to cool down or consider the consequences. Voluntary manslaughter carries a punishment of 3, 6, 0r 11 years in prison.


Someone can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if they kill someone where there is no malice, there is no intent to kill, but the killing is done so with a conscious disregard for human life. If convicted, involuntary manslaughter can place a person in prison for up to 2, 3, or 4 years.


Specific to driving, a person can be charged with this offense if they (1) drive unlawfully (2) during the commission of a lawful act that might produce death in an unlawful manner or (3) knowingly causes an accident for financial benefit or gain. If charged as a felony, this punishment can be up to 2 to 10 years in state prison. If charged as a misdemeanor, you can be charged with up to a year in county jail (also known as a “local sentence”). It is no question that homicide / murder / manslaughter charges are among the most serious kind of criminal offenses. It is also the kind of criminal offense that is highly recommended you seek out the professional advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney that is familiar with the charges at hand.


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