WHAT IS A MURDER / MANSLAUGHTER CHARGE?

Have you been arrested or even just questioned by the police for murder or manslaughter?

Many people make a big mistake. They think that just because they are innocent, they don’t need the best criminal defense lawyer.

The Court system is designed to be “adversarial”. This means the District Attorney represents the government, not you. He has no obligation to tell you if there are holes in his case or weaknesses in the evidence. If the police violated your rights or made mistakes, the DA won’t tell you that a motion to suppress evidence or even to dismiss the case is appropriate.

The Judge can’t take sides, so he or she can’t tell you what to do either. The only person in the system who is on your side is your defense attorney.

So YES, you do need the best criminal defense lawyer. You should also know that if you let the Judge appoint the Public Defender, then the Judge must order you to reimburse the county based on your ability to pay. You will be ordered to appear in Court and waste many hours away from work and family. In addition, the Public Defender is under a lot of pressure to get rid of cases. They work for the government just like the District Attorney.

We don’t have that pressure and so we can do whatever is best for you. Our goal is to get the case dismissed or reduced. No one can predict the future, but we have a lot of success stories and just a few of them are on our web site. If you don’t hire us, you will never know if your case could have been dismissed or reduced.

WHY IS THIS A SERIOUS PROBLEM?

All felonies are a serious problem, but murder or manslaughter felonies have some unique features.

A murder charge is much too complicated to explain in a short article. We would be happy to discuss the situation in detail with you, but here are a few points in general. In Penal Code 187, California law defines murder as the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with “malice aforethought.” 

“Malice aforethought” means the killer “with wanton disregard for human life, does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death.” Murder can be charged as “first-degree” or “second-degree.”

First degree murder generally carries a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. First-degree murder may be charged when the killing is done by certain means such as “lying in wait” or torture; or is done in a way that is willful, deliberate and premeditated; or involves the “felony murder rule.”

All other forms of murder are second-degree. Second-degree murder generally carries a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.

Note that a person can commit a murder completely by accident. For example, if you drink and drive and as a result someone is killed, you can be charged with murder. This is the so-called “Watson Murder” rule. In certain cases, the goal of the defense is to focus on the sentence or other consequences.

For example, the penalty for using a firearm in certain offenses is the “10 20 life” rule. Under Penal Code 12022.53, if a person merely uses a gun, he is facing an additional 10 years. If he fires the gun, he is facing an additional 20 years. If he fires the gun and someone is injured or killed he is facing an additional 25 to life.

This rule only applies to certain felonies, including murder. Therefore, an important goal might be to change the underlying charge from murder to manslaughter, because the “10 20 life” rule does not apply to manslaughter.

Penal Code 192(a) California’s voluntary manslaughter law may be charged when the defendant kills another person during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. This charge is very similar to first-degree murder. The difference is that voluntary manslaughter doesn’t involve malice, since the killing is done spontaneously. The penalty is much less as a result.

Another related crime is Penal Code 192(b) involuntary manslaughter, which is an unintentional killing without malice and without a conscious disregard for human life.

If you are not a citizen, you can be deported, even if you are a “Lawful Permanent Resident” and have a “Green Card.”

WHAT ARE POSSIBLE DEFENSES?

Each case is unique, but there are two sides to every story. Attorney Mark Cantrell has licensed private investigators who will perform an independent investigation to find evidence to help you.

Possible defenses may include:

1. self defense;

2. accident or misfortune;

3. inability to form the required mental state (for example, due to intoxication or mental defect);

4. reducing the charge to manslaughter;

5. challenging whether the cause of death was the result of the defendant’s action.

6. the wrong person is accused because there has been a faulty identification of the perpetrator.

WHY SHOULD YOU CALL US IMMEDIATELY? 

Many people are surprised to learn that the police are allowed to lie to the suspect in an attempt to obtain a confession or incriminating statements. This is just one more reason it is foolish to talk to the authorities. If you are under investigation call us immediately so we can protect you.

Mark Cantrell is well known in the Riverside criminal defense community as a trial attorney with many successful cases to his credit. When you visit his office, he will be proud to show you newspaper articles about his cases - not paid advertisements.

The biggest mistake an accused person can make is to retain an attorney who does not do trials. The District Attorney has no reason to compromise and give you a break if your attorney is known as a “plea bargain” attorney.