Ventura Criminal Justice Attorney
Homicide Defense Attorney Serving Ventura County
Homicide is arguably the most serious crime punishable under California law. Even simply being charged with homicide, whether accidental, voluntary, or premeditated, can completely disrupt a person’s life and can have long-lasting consequences on a defendant’s professional reputation, personal life, employment, etc. Homicide convictions carry the most severe penalties, including the potential for life imprisonment or execution.
If you or someone you know has been charged with homicide or is in any way under investigation relating to a homicide, it is vital to get help from a dedicated Oxnard and Ventura County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. California homicide defense lawyer Paul Tyler has years of experience handling the most serious and sensitive cases and can help you at all stages of a homicide case, from investigation through trial. With the right legal defense, you may be able to get your charges reduced, potential sentence lowered, or have the case dismissed in its entirety.
Types of Homicide
California’s homicide law is codified starting at Penal Code 187. Crimes involving homicide in California include:
- First-Degree Murder. The unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought (premeditation). Typically when people think of homicide, they think of first-degree murder.
- Voluntary Manslaughter. A homicide committed intentionally but without prior intent to kill. Crimes of passion rather than planning may fall under this category.
- Involuntary Manslaughter. The unintentional killing of a human being.
- Vehicular Manslaughter. The involuntary killing of another person while driving a motorized vehicle.
Any form of homicide will likely result in a felony charge in California. The different levels of homicide manslaughter correspond to the defendant’s state of mind. First degree murder, meaning a murder that the defendant planned and executed intentionally, carries the most severe penalties. Premeditation can happen the moment before the crime, such as by pulling out a gun and stating the intent to kill; it need not be a crime planned far in advance to qualify as murder.
Voluntary manslaughter applies where there was no planning ahead of time, but the killing was intentional. Involuntary and vehicular manslaughter apply where the killing was unintentional. Any degree of manslaughter still requires that the defendant was acting with at least criminal negligence for the safety of others.
Defending Against a Charge of Homicide
In order to convict on a charge of homicide, the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A zealous defense attorney can help you poke holes in one of the elements of the prosecution’s case. For instance, the prosecutor may be unable to show that the defendant actually planned the murder ahead of time and instead acted in the heat of passion, reducing the charge to manslaughter. Additionally, the defense may be able to show that the killing was legally justified for one reason or another. Where the prosecution’s evidence is only circumstantial, the defense may even be able to poke holes in the prosecutor’s identification of the killer such as by providing an alibi for the defendant’s whereabouts at the time of the victim’s death.
There are certain “affirmative” defenses to homicide. The defendant bears the burden of proof for these defenses, and they may or may not directly negate an element of the crime, but they can be utilized to have charges reduced or dismissed entirely. Affirmative defenses to homicide include self-defense, insanity, duress (duress is unavailable for first-degree murder), intoxication, or mistake of fact.
First-degree murder is punishable by the death penalty, which is still legal in California. No California state or federal court has ordered the death penalty unconstitutional. However, in March of 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order suspending all executions while he remains in office. This means that no one will be executed during Gov. Newsom’s tenure, but does not mean they will never be executed in the future, and it does not prevent new defendants from being sentenced to death.
Murder is likewise punishable by the death penalty under federal law. Although there has been a de facto moratorium on federal executions for the last decade, Attorney General William Barr recently announced that federal executions will restart.
Dedicated Ventura County Homicide Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you love is under investigation for this offense or has been charged with homicide in Ventura County, California, please call homicide defense attorney Paul Tyler at 805-889-9000.