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Homicide Defense in San Diego County

Defendants charged with murder in San Diego cannot afford to delay in hiring an experienced murder defense attorney. Although California has not executed an inmate in many years, the state of California does not prohibit the death penalty. In fact, California has more than 700 prison inmates waiting to appeal their death sentence, while they sit in prison on death row, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.  A conviction of murder in California - depending on a variety of factors - can indeed lead to the most severe penalties in the state, to include execution.

Understanding Murder Charges in San Diego

Murder is specifically prohibited by California Penal Code 187, and is further defined in subsequent Penal Codes (188-197). California Penal Code 187 reads:
187. (a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.
187. (b) This section shall not apply to any person who commits an act that results in the death of a fetus if any of the following apply:

  1. The act complied with the Therapeutic Abortion Act, Article 2 (commencing with Section 123400) of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of Division 106 of the Health and Safety Code.
  2. The act was committed by a holder of a physician's and surgeon's certificate, as defined in the Business and Professions Code, in a case where, to a medical certainty, the result of childbirth would be death of the mother of the fetus or where her death from childbirth, although not medically certain, would be substantially certain or more likely than not.
  3. The act was solicited, aided, abetted, or consented to by the mother of the fetus. 187. (c) Subdivision (b) shall not be construed to prohibit the prosecution of any person under any other provision of law.

First Degree Murder in San Diego County

Per California Penal Code 187, Murder of the First Degree (AKA First Degree Murder) is defined as:  Continue reading below...

“All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, or any act punishable under Section 206, 286, 288, 288a, or 289, or any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death, is murder of the first degree. All other kinds of murders are of the second degree.”

In addition, charges of First Degree Murder may be filed if the murder occurs, in junction or in the commission of an independent violent felony which may include:

  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Drive By Shootings
  • Kidnapping
  • Other Violent Sex Crimes
  • Rape
  • Robbery

All persons charged with First Degree Murder are facing serious consequences if convicted in San Diego County. Those charged with First Degree Murder should retain an experienced San Diego Murder Defense Attorney as soon as possible to begin planning your defense.

Understanding the Burden of Proof in First Degree Murder Cases in San Diego

Persons charged with First Degree Murder in San Diego are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is unequivocally on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant charged with First Degree murder is guilty of this crime. The defendant does not have to “prove” they did not commit the crime.

Any person charged with First Degree Murder in in San Diego County may rely on the fact that in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction of First Degree Murder, they bear the responsibility of providing beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant acted willfully, deliberately and with premeditation

This means that the prosecutor must prove that any person charged with First Degree Murder acted in a manner that caused the death of another, and did so with malice aforethought, and without any justification or excuse. In addition, the murder was premeditated or planned, rather than impulsive.

Prosecutors first bear the responsibility of proving that a defendant’s actions resulted in the death of another. As such, evidence must conclusively show that the defendant is responsible for the death of another, and that the victim would otherwise be alive if not for the specific actions of the defendant.

When it comes to proving malice aforethought, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed homicide, acting with express or implied malice.

  • Express Malice- Defendant intended to kill the victim, during the murderous action
  • Implied Malice- Defendant’s actions were likely to result in death, and the defendant committed the act without regard for the likely loss of life. 

When it comes to proving that the defendant acted without excuse or justification, the onus is on the prosecutor to prove essentially that the defendant was not insane, intoxicated, mentally impaired, did not kill in self-defense, or commit homicide in order to defend others.

Second Degree Murder in San Diego County

Per California Penal Code 187, Murder of the Second Degree (AKA Second Degree Murder) is all murder that does not meet the legal definition of Murder of the First Degree which reads:

“All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, or any act punishable under Section 206, 286, 288, 288a, or 289, or any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death, is murder of the first degree. All other kinds of murders are of the second degree.”

In essence, Second Degree Murder differs from First Degree murder in that it lacks the element of premeditation. In many cases, First Degree Murder charges are reduced to Second Degree Murder charges because proving premeditation is often difficult.

All persons charged with Second Degree Murder are facing serious consequences if convicted in San Diego County. Those charged with Second Degree Murder should retain an experienced San Diego Murder Defense Attorney as soon as possible to begin planning your defense.

Understanding the Burden of Proof in Second Degree Murder Cases in San Diego

Persons charged with Second Degree murder in San Diego are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is firmly on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant charged with Second Degree Murder is guilty of this crime. The defendant does not have to “prove” they did not commit the crime.

Any person charged with Second Degree Murder in in San Diego County may rely on the fact that in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction of Second Degree Murder, they bear the responsibility of providing beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant acted in a manner that caused the death of a victim
  • The defendant committed the act of murder with malice
  • The defendant committed the act of murder without excuse or justification

In San Diego County, in order for a person to be convicted of Second Degree Murder, the prosecution must show that: the defendant’s actions killed another person(s); the defendant murdered another human with express or implied malice, and there was no justifiable reason or excuse for committing this murder.

Proving that a defendant charged with Second Degree Murder in San Diego County acted in such a manner as to kill another person, is firmly the responsibility of the prosecutor. In other words, evidence must conclusively show that the defendant is responsible for the death of another, and that the victim would otherwise be alive if not for the specific actions of the defendant.

When it comes to proving malice, the prosecution must prove that the Second Degree Murder defendant committed homicide, acting with express or implied malice.

  • Express Malice- Defendant intended to kill the victim, during the murderous action
  • Implied Malice- Defendant’s actions are likely to result in death, and the defendant committed the act without regard for the likely loss of life.

When it comes to proving that the defendant acted without excuse or justification, the onus is on the prosecutor to prove that the defendant was not insane, intoxicated, mentally impaired, did not kill in self-defense, or commit murder in effort to protect others. 

Manslaughter Defense in San Diego County

In San Diego, defendants may be charged with Manslaughter under California Penal Code 192. Manslaughter is first and foremost characterized as an unlawful killing of a human being. It differs from First and Second Degree Murder charges in that Voluntary and Involuntary charges do not necessitate that implied or expressed malice are a factor, and therefore the prosecution is not required to prove malice.

California Penal Code 192 defines Manslaughter as:

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. Voluntary Manslaughter results from a sudden quarrel of heat of passion. Involuntary Manslaughter results in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony. Involuntary Manslaughter charges may also be brought up in San Diego County if in the commission of a lawful act, which might produce death in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. In other words, a person may be charged with manslaughter if they unintentionally kill another person through carelessness or recklessness.

Voluntary Manslaughter in San Diego County

Most Voluntary Manslaughter charges brought against a defendant in San Diego County begin as a First or Second Degree Murder charge. Prosecutors who cannot meet the burden of proof for prosecuting murder charges will often seek voluntary manslaughter charges.

An experienced San Diego Murder and Manslaughter Defense attorney will plan your defense strategy by seeking to prove that:

The defendant facing Manslaughter charges was provoked

As the result of being provoked, the defendant facing Manslaughter charges acted rashly due to STRONG emotion, and lack of judgement or sound reasoning

The defense attorney representing the defendant charged with Manslaughter in San Diego County, must also prove that the provocation was so intense that other reasonable people may have responded in the same way given the circumstances, even though the death was not premeditated, nor planned.

Because of the unique challenges presented in a Manslaughter case, those charged with this crime, or First or Second Degree Murder in San Diego, should seek the counsel of an experienced San Diego Murder and Manslaughter Attorney. 

Understanding the Burden of Proof in Voluntary Manslaughter Cases in San Diego

Experienced Manslaughter Defense Attorneys in San Diego will typically find that proving that their defendant/client in a Manslaughter case was provoked, to be the least challenging element of their defense.

Proving that a defendant had lost reasoning or judgement due to the aforementioned provocation can be more difficult. Nearly everyone has heard of a “crime of passion.” Crimes of passion may include a spouse killing their spouse upon catching their spouse in the act of cheating with someone else. Countless normally sane and reasonable people who experience this type of shock or trauma have certainly lost the ability to reason and make good judgement.

On the other hand, if for example a boyfriend suspects his girlfriend of cheating, and she confirms that she is cheating, and he kills her after she admits it (rather than by catching her in the proverbial act) it can be more difficult to prove that her verbal confirmation resulted in his inability to reason, or use judgement.

Finally, proving that other sane people may have also reacted in the way the defendant did if they experienced the same provocation is generally the most challenging aspect of a Voluntary Manslaughter Defense.

Involuntary Manslaughter in San Diego County

Like Voluntary Manslaughter charges, many Involuntary Manslaughter charges arise from the successful criminal defense strategy employed by your criminal defense attorney, in order to have the more severe charges of First or Second Degree Murder reduced.

Defendants may face Involuntary Manslaughter charges if it can be shown that an intentional act unintentionally resulted in the death of another person. To put it another way, even if the defendant intended to engage in an unlawful act, they did not intend to kill anyone. Involuntary Manslaughter charges may also result if a victim is killed during the commission of a misdemeanor, or if the victim was killed as the result of other types of criminal negligence.

Although Involuntary Manslaughter is a felony, the punishment and/or penalties resulting from an Involuntary Manslaughter conviction are much less severe than punishment and penalties applied in Voluntary Manslaughter, or First or Second Degree Murder convictions.

Because of the unique challenges, and the potential for severe punishment and penalties, presented in Involuntary Manslaughter cases, it is important that you seek the counsel of an experienced San Diego Murder and Manslaughter Attorney.   

Understanding the Burden of Proof in Involuntary Manslaughter Cases in San Diego

Defendants charged with Involuntary Manslaughter will find that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant should have seen that his or her actions could result in death.  Moreover, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s criminal negligence or their role in committing an illegal misdemeanor are clearly the reason and the only reason that the victim died.

If you have been arrested for Murder or Manslaughter in San Diego, we can help.

Anna Yum worked for years as a prosecutor, before becoming an award winning and nationally recognized Criminal Defense attorney. Her unique background as a deputy district attorney enables her to plan your defense proactively by planning a strategy based on how the prosecutors will lay out the case against you. Ms. Yum has extensive experiencing in defending against murder and manslaughter cases. For more information, please look at Attorney Yum’s case results and biography. If you have been accused of murder or manslaughter, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum at (619) 233-4433 immediately for a free confidential legal consultation.

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