San Bernardino and Riverside Homicide Attorney

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Homicide is any act that results in another human being’s death in California. There are several different types of homicide charges, depending on the facts of the case. First-degree murder is the most serious type of homicide charge, and it involves a premeditated killing of another human being. Involuntary manslaughter involves the unintentional or accidental killing of a human being. 

All homicide charges in California are serious and carry jail time. If you’re charged with homicide in California, you will likely be facing a felony charge. You need a strong criminal defense team to protect your rights immediately. At the Law Offices of Ronald L. Freeman, our criminal defense attorney will carefully review the circumstances of your case and discuss your legal options with you. We use our skills and experience to achieve a successful outcome in your California homicide case. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. 

Homicide in California 

Under California law, homicide is defined as an act that causes the death of another human being. There are multiple types of homicide, and homicide isn’t always considered to be a criminal act. For example, police officers can use lethal force against suspects when they face an imminent threat of death. 

Homicides can be intentional or unintentional and due to the defendant’s carelessness or negligence. Regardless of what type of homicide charge you’re facing, you could be subject to serious penalties. We recommend speaking to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights.

Murder in California 

In California, murder is a type of homicide that is intentional and unjustified. Prosecutors must prove that the defendant had “malice aforethought” when killing the victim. Malice aforethought means that the defendant intended to unlawfully kill another human being. Prosecutors can prove that the defendant expressly intended to kill the defendant, as evidenced by pulling out a gun and shooting the victim. They can also prove that the intent is implied by the defendant’s actions. 

Second-degree murder still requires the prosecution to prove malice and intention. However, the prosecution doesn’t have to prove deliberation or premeditation before the crime occurs. When murder doesn’t fit the elements of first-degree murder, capital murder, or felony murder, prosecutors will typically charge the crime as second-degree murder. 

Watson Murder

A Watson murder occurs when someone drives while intoxicated and kills another person. Watson murders can also include a person with a DUI conviction on his or her criminal record who violates another traffic law and kills another person. Under this law, drivers with a terrible driving record or a previous DUI conviction are assumed to know that they cannot drive safely. As a result, prosecutors can use their past driving history to imply that they had “malice aforethought” to attempt to convict them of murder.


With a manslaughter charge, the prosecution doesn’t need to prove that the defendant intended to kill the victim. Instead, manslaughter involves the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. There are different types of manslaughter charges in California: voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter. Manslaughter is an easier charge for prosecutors to prove because they don’t have to prove that the defendant intended to kill the victim.

Vehicular Manslaughter 

Vehicular manslaughter occurs when the defendant is driving a vehicle and unintentionally, but unlawfully, kills another human being. Vehicular manslaughter is different than a Watson murder. The defendant doesn’t need to have a record of dangerous driving or a DUI conviction to face vehicular manslaughter charges. An example of vehicular manslaughter would involve a driver texting while driving, causing them to hit and kill another person.

Voluntary Manslaughter 

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when one person kills another person in the heat of passion. In this type of homicide, a person may not plan or intend to kill another person, but the homicide isn’t accidental. One of the most common examples of voluntary manslaughter occurs when one person discovers their spouse having sex with another person and immediately kills them. If the individual gave thought to murder the victim beforehand, he or she would face first-degree murder charges, not voluntary manslaughter charges.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is also called criminally negligent homicide in California. This type of homicide occurs when a person’s death is the indirect result of negligence or recklessness. Criminal negligence is more than just a mistake, and attention, or ordinary carelessness. Criminal negligence involves acting in a reckless way that creates a high risk of bodily injury or death. 

The prosecution must show that a reasonable person would have known that acting in the way the defendant acted would create such a risk. An example of involuntary manslaughter would be a parent who knows that his or her child has a disability that makes it challenging to consume enough calories. Should the parent fail to take extra care to feed the child and the child passes away due to malnutrition, the parent may face involuntary manslaughter charges.

Homicide Penalties in California

The penalties for homicide in California vary depending on the type of charge. First-degree murder charges carry a penalty of 25 years to life in prison. Second-degree murder charges carry a punishment of 15 years to life imprisonment. Manslaughter charges are punishable by up to an 11-year prison sentence. Depending on the facts of the case, manslaughter can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

Contact a San Bernardino Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

 Have you or your loved one been charged with homicide in California? If so, it’s important that you consult with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Don’t speak to investigators without a defense lawyer present. At the law offices of Ronald L. Freeman, our skilled criminal defense lawyers will give your homicide case the individual attention it deserves. Your freedom and future are important to us, and we will protect your rights. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.