June 11, 2024 By Wallin & Klarich

What You Need To Know If You Or A Loved One Is Facing A Murder Charge 

Murder, defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, is one of the most severe crimes under California law. If you or a loved one are convicted of a murder charge there will be very serious punishment. Murder cases have many complex legal issues and you will need the guidance of a highly experienced criminal defense law firm to fight for you. Call Wallin & Klarich today toll-free at (877) 466-5245 for your free consultation with our experienced attorneys.

Understanding Degrees of Murder in California

In California, murder is categorized into different degrees, each carrying distinct legal definitions and consequences:

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder involves premeditated, deliberate, and willful killing. It often includes cases where the murder was committed using explosives, poison, or during specific felonies such as rape, burglary, or arson.

Example: Planning and executing a murder to gain an inheritance.

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is any intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable “heat of passion.” It covers a wide range of scenarios, which result from   more spontaneous acts of violence.

Example: A physical fight that  results in a person dying where the person accused did not have the  intent to kill.

Felony Murder Rule

The felony murder rule applies when an individual kills someone, intentionally or unintentionally, while committing certain felonies. Under this rule, the intent to commit the felony suffices for a murder charge, regardless of whether the death was intentional.

Example: A victim dies during a bank robbery, even if the robbers did not plan for anyone to get hurt.

Legal Defenses If You Are Facing a Murder Charge

Facing a murder charge doesn’t mean you’re without options. Wallin and Klarich can help you use any of several possible legal defenses depending upon the specific facts of your case. 


Claiming self-defense involves demonstrating that you believed you were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm and that deadly force was necessary to prevent thisfrom happening. 

Insanity Defense

If you were unable to understand the nature of your act or distinguish right from wrong due to a mental disorder at the time of the crime, the insanity defense might apply.

Lack of Intent

Proving that the killing was accidental and lacked the requisite intent for a murder charge can lead to lesser charges or even acquittal.

Mistaken Identity

Eyewitness testimony and other forms of evidence can often be unreliable. 

Alibi Defense

If you were not at the scene of the crime at the time it may have occurred then you should not be found guilty. If you have an “alibi defense” then we will help you introduce evidence that you were at a different location other than where the murder took place. This could be a winnable defense in some cases.

The Role of Intent in Murder Cases

Intent plays a pivotal role in differentiating between various murder charges. The prosecution must prove that you acted with malice aforethought—defined as either express or implied malice. Express malice involves a clear intent to kill, while implied malice involves acting with a conscious disregard for human life.

Sentencing and Penalties If You Are Convicted of Murder

The penalties for murder convictions in California are severe and vary based on the degree of murder:

  • First-Degree Murder: 25 years to life imprisonment, with the possibility of parole. Certain circumstances, such as killing a law enforcement officer or committing multiple murders, can result in life without parole or the death penalty.
  • Second-Degree Murder: 15 years to life imprisonment, which may increase under specific conditions, such as prior convictions or gang-related activities.

What You Should Do If You Or A Loved One Is Accused of Murder

Being charged with murder is overwhelming, but knowing your rights and steps to take can make a significant difference:

Secure Legal Representation

Immediately hire a qualified criminal defense attorney experienced in handling murder cases. Wallin and Klarich has defended many people accused of murder and similar serious crimes for over 40 years.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

Anything you say can be used against you. It’s vital to exercise your right to remain silent and avoid discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney.

Gather Evidence

We will work with you and an experienced investigator  to collect and preserve any evidence that may support your defense. This includes securing witness statements, surveillance footage, and any relevant documents.

Mental Health Evaluation

If applicable, we will consider whether you should undergo a mental health evaluation to determine if any psychological factors could play a role in your defense strategy.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you are facing murder charges, you need an aggressive defense attorney to fight for your freedom. With 40+ years of experience, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have helped other clients win their cases or get their charges reduced to a lesser degree. We know the most effective defenses to argue on your behalf, and we will do everything in our power to help you achieve the best possible result in your case. 

Our law firm has been successfully representing thousands of clients. Call us for a free consultation to see if we can help you at 877-466-5245. We will be there when you call. We have offices in Irvine, Pasadena, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Torrance, Victorville, West Covina, and Anaheim. Call us for a free consultation at 877-466-5245.

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