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How Murder (PC 187) Is Distinguished from Manslaughter (PC 192)

An Alhambra man was convicted in early June of voluntary manslaughter (CA PC 192) for a brutal slaying in 2007. The circumstances of the case – he was found by the courts to have killed his girlfriend and stuffed her body in a plastic bag – beg the question why he didn’t receive a more stringent conviction. In this case the coroner was unable to definitively name the cause of death. Thus, during the first trial the jury was unable to convict the defendant on first degree murder (CA PC 187). In other words, they knew he was guilty, but resorted to a lesser conviction out of necessity.

This case illustrates how courts will rule when a number of different statutes are in play. It also serves as an introduction to the way different forms of homicide are distinguished by the law. In a nutshell, all murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. Murder by definition is the killing of a human being with malice.

A first degree murder includes malice and premeditation, and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life in California. A Special Circumstances enhancement (190.2) carries a penalty of death or life without the possibility of parole. Second degree murder entails malice, but without premeditation. It carries a penalty of 15 years to life.

Manslaughter (PC 192) is also homicide, but it is not murder from a legal standpoint. There are two major categories for manslaughter – voluntary and involuntary. A third may be included – vehicular manslaughter (PC 191.5), since it carries its own set of penalties. Voluntary manslaughter is defined as homicide in a sudden heat of passion. Penalties for PC 192(a) range from 3-11 years in state prison. Involuntary manslaughter is unintentional homicide.

Courts have not had very much discretion in sentencing since indeterminate sentencing was superseded by clear penalty ranges in 1977. The lack of a clear cause of death in the Alhambra murder case allowed prosecutors to seek a conviction on a lesser charge.

If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter, it is vital that you secure the services of a strong and competent Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. We at Wallin & Klarich have a history of over 30 years successfully defending clients. Call us today at (888) 280-6839.

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.