San Bernardino Murder Defense Attorney
San Bernardino Practice Areas
San Bernardino Murder Defense Lawyer
A murder charge is one of the most serious charges someone can face. Not only does a murder or attempted murder charge carry extreme criminal consequences, but the social repercussions and negative media coverage of murder cases can severely impact a case. Although a person is innocent until proven guilty, this is rarely the media’s or public’s response to violent crimes such as murder.
You need a strong murder defense attorney if you have been charged with murder in San Bernardino, CA. Allegations of attempted murder, manslaughter, or other types of homicide can be difficult to overcome in trial and in social life without an effective defense protecting your rights and interests. It’s essential that any criminal defense attorney you work with has experience with murder charges and understands that defending your rights in court is just as important as combating the out-of-court perceptions of your case.
Understanding the Difference Between Murder and Homicide Charges
Homicide is an umbrella term for criminal charges where one person kills another person. Homicide can refer to murder, manslaughter, and legal killings such as self-defense or active-duty soldiers who kill an enemy combatant. A homicide charge can be separate from a murder charge, or it could include a murder charge.
Murder refers to any killing of another person that had malice aforethought or was deliberate and inexcusable. While some forms of homicide can have justified reasons, murder cannot.
What Is Malice Aforethought?
Malice aforethought refers to the intent to kill. The intent to kill may be expressed, meaning that there was a specific intent to kill. Intent to kill may also be implied, or their actions were deliberate despite being aware of the danger to human life. Malice aforethought can be proven by showing:
- The action was premeditated.
- The action was the result of an interaction the individuals had with each other.
- The action was directly intended to kill the individual.
A murder defense attorney may combat this by showing that there was no malice aforethought on the part of the accused and that the act was not deliberate. This may enable a lesser charge of manslaughter or homicide rather than a murder charge. This is only one route an attorney may take for defense; their exact strategy will depend on your unique circumstances.
Manslaughter is considered a less severe charge. Manslaughter charges can be:
- Voluntary: A voluntary manslaughter charge is the more serious of the two. It occurs when someone dies as a result of a felony offense the accused committed. There was no intent to kill, but someone died in a fatal accident during a felony.
- Involuntary: Involuntary manslaughter charges refer to extreme negligence that caused another person’s death. This charge is often related to vehicular manslaughter or homicide.
Attempted Murder Charges
Attempted murder is charged when a person has clear intent and malice aforethought to murder another person but fails to do so. In addition to proving intent, the prosecution must also prove that actions were taken towards a failed murder. This can be proven through actions such as:
- Stalking or Ambushing: These actions may show that the accused was looking for an opportune moment to murder the victim.
- Luring: This is the act of trying to get the victim to be in a specific spot at a certain time.
- Breaking and Entering: The accused may be shown trying to find the victim by breaking into their home or another location.
- Constructing: This is when the accused has gathered materials or owns materials that could have been used in the murder.
- Soliciting: Someone pays or attempts to pay another person to conduct the murder.
If the prosecution can prove an action, they must then prove intent to murder alongside that action. Proving intent to kill is tricky, as intent to maim or frighten someone does not prove intent to kill. The unique circumstances of the crime and action during the alleged attempted murder determine if there was intent to kill.
Attempted Murder vs. Assault
Assault and attempted murder have vastly different criminal penalties, but each hinges on the specific action taken and any intent to kill. Assault is the act of harming or maiming a person, but there is no intent to murder. Attempted murder has both intent and action towards murder, but it may not have caused the victim any harm. The intent to murder is still there, making it attempted murder. A San Bernardino criminal defense lawyer needs to use the specifics of the charges and crimes of the accused to determine how to lessen the charges and create an effective defense.
Why Do I Need a San Bernardino Murder Defense Attorney?
When you are charged with a crime, you receive a public defender if you can’t afford legal representation. Public defenders are often overworked and will be unable to spend the necessary time to create a defense that is crafted to your circumstances. Although, for some criminal charges, this is less serious, you should not take this chance on murder charges. Conviction can affect the rest of your life. You want the most capable defense possible.
Public defenders generally aim for a settlement outside of court. When you work with a private murder defense attorney, you receive their full attention and care. You can also be assured that they are prepared for trial if it’s necessary. Murder and attempted murder charges, or even allegations of such, can significantly harm your life. A felony conviction can affect your employment, future job opportunities, housing, and social life. These are consequences outside of court-assigned penalties such as jail time, prison time, and large fines. It’s imperative that you work with a defense attorney dedicated to your interests and finding the most positive solution.
Degrees of Murder Charges
Murder can be charged in the first or second degree, both of which are felonies. It is essential that you work with an experienced murder defense attorney if you have been charged with murder.
A first-degree murder charge is the willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder of another person. This may have been done by:
- Use of an explosive or destructive device
- Using ammunition made to pierce armor
- Lying in wait
- Inflicting torture
- Using a weapon of mass destruction
First-degree murder can also be charged under the felony murder rule. This means that the accused and any accomplices are held liable for killing another person while carrying out a different felony. This includes felonies such as:
A conviction in California for first-degree murder will result in a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
Second-degree murder charges cover murder cases not included in first-degree murder charges. A murder that is done willfully, but without premeditation or intentional action, is a second-degree murder charge. A conviction for this charge in California can result in 15 years to life in prison, but the exact sentence is dependent on the specific circumstances of the crime.
Aggravating Factors in First- and Second-Degree Murder Charges
The listed penalties for first- and second-degree murder convictions rely on no extenuating factors in the case. These penalties can be more severe if there are one or more aggravating factors, which may include:
- There are prior murder convictions.
- The alleged murder involved poison, explosions, or torture.
- The accused is discovered to be part of a gang.
- The murder was accompanied by other crimes, such as arson or robbery.
It’s essential that a defense attorney be able to defend you against these charges and aggravating factors, as well as the murder charge. Not only do these factors sway the court and public opinion, but they also lengthen the sentence you face. You need a strong defense against aggravated murder charges.
Capital Murder Charges
Capital murder charges are an elevated form of first-degree murder charges in California. This means there are aggravating factors surrounding the murder that make it more egregious and require harsher penalties. These special circumstances that lead a first-degree murder charge to become a capital murder charge include:
- The murder was committed for financial gain.
- The murder was of a police officer, firefighter, judge, juror, or elected official.
- A witness was murdered to prevent them from testifying.
- Multiple people were murdered.
- The murder was committed as part of gang-related activity.
- The murder happened in a drive-by shooting.
- Race, religion, or national origin was a reason behind the murder.
A conviction for capital murder results in life in prison without parole. It can also lead to the death penalty if it is active in California at the time of sentencing.
Defenses Against Murder Charges
Defenses against a murder charge either posit that the wrong person is being accused of the crime or that the accused committed the act, but it cannot be charged as murder because of its justification or surrounding circumstances. The exact defense used will depend on the specific case, and an attorney can walk the accused through the ideal legal options and potential results of their case. Defense examples include:
- Mistaken Identity: Someone else was at fault for the murder instead of the accused. This shows that the prosecution is unable to prove the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Self-Defense: If the victim provoked the accused to violence, such as when the accused was defending themselves against the alleged victim’s violence, murder may have been justified. This defense may apply if the defense can prove that the accused reasonably believed that they were in immediate danger of death, bodily injury, rape, or robbery.
- Defense of Others: If the defense can prove that the accused believed someone else was under a similar immediate threat, there may have been justification for the murder.
- Inadvertent Killing: If the act that caused the victim’s death can be proved to be accidental or unintentional, the accused can’t be charged with murder. Charges may be less severe or dropped entirely.
- Unlawful Arrest: If police officers didn’t follow proper procedures, such as failing to read Miranda rights, coercing a confession, or illegally obtaining evidence, charges against the acquitted could be dropped.
- No Premeditation: The act may have been an accident or a moment of passion. Although the accused can still be charged, it can’t be for murder.
- Insanity: The accused does not understand right and wrong or didn’t understand that their actions led to the victim’s death.
Determining what defense is right for your individual circumstances needs to be done by a qualified and experienced professional.
What Types of Attorneys Are Involved in a Murder Case?
Murder cases are among the most high-profile criminal cases, along with other violent crimes. There are several types of legal professionals who deal with murder cases. This includes:
- Criminal Defense Attorney: This is the professional most commonly associated with criminal cases like murder charges. A criminal defense attorney represents the person accused of murder and attempts to lessen the charges against the accused or have the charges dropped. Working with an experienced and successful defense attorney can drastically change the length of the sentence and the type of charge the accused faces.
- Public Defender: If the accused cannot afford an attorney, they are assigned a representative by the state. Everyone has the legal right to legal representation. However, many public defenders are handling several cases at the same time and are not able to devote the necessary care to charges as serious as murder.
- District Attorney or Other Federal Prosecutors: The prosecution’s job is to prove the guilt of the accused and argue for the highest possible sentence. Because a murder charge is so serious, the prosecution is going to utilize all their resources and tactics.
- Legal Representative for the Victim or Their Family: In some cases, the victim of an alleged attempted murder or the alleged murder victim’s family will hire legal representation. This is more likely if they are suing for civil damages in a separate case.
Legal Defense for San Bernardino Murder Charges
When you are facing murder charges, you need exceptional legal representation and criminal defense. At Exum Law Offices, we can build a strong case to defend your rights. We are compassionate toward your circumstances and are ready to defend you at trial if necessary. Our dedicated team can craft their defense to address your unique situation and give you support in this difficult and overwhelming time. Contact Exum Law Offices today.