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Homicide Charges in California

Homicide involves the unlawful killing of a human being. However, in California, there are two different categories: murder and manslaughter. These categories are further broken up into various types of murder and manslaughter.

The two main categories of homicide are differentiated by malice aforethought. Malice aforethought means the killing was willful, deliberate, and premeditated. Murder requires malice aforethought. Manslaughter does not.


Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. Manslaughter is further divided into categories:

Voluntary Manslaughter 

Voluntary manslaughter (California Penal Code Section 192 PC) is the unlawful killing of a human being that is committed in the heat of passion. Heat of passion means that the killing was committed in a state of intense emotion like anger or fear.

Involuntary Manslaughter 

Involuntary manslaughter (California Penal Code Section 192(b) PC) is the unlawful killing of a human being that is committed without malice aforethought and without the heat of passion. It is also manslaughter that is committed during the commission of a lawful act, but in a grossly negligent manner.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter is a type of involuntary manslaughter under California Penal Code Section 192(c) PC. It involves driving a vehicle negligently or unlawfully and causing the death of another person.


Murder (California Penal Code Section 187(a) PC) is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Murder is further divided into categories:

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder (California Penal Code Section 189 PC) is willful, deliberate, and premeditated. It is also murder that is committed during the commission of certain felonies, such as rape, robbery, or arson.

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder (California Penal Code Section 189 PC) is murder that is not willful, deliberate, and premeditated. It is also murder that is committed during the commission of certain felonies, such as assault with a deadly weapon. Essentially, any murder that is not first-degree murder is second-degree murder in California.

Capital Murder

Capital murder (California Penal Code Section 190.2 PC) refers to first-degree murder that occurs in certain situations that are specifically listed in the California Penal Code, including (but not limited to):

  • Killing for financial gain
  • Killing more than one victim
  • Killing a police officer
  • Killing a witness to prevent testimony
  • Hate crimes
  • Drive-by shootings
  • Gang killings

Felony Murder

Felony murder may be first-degree murder or second-degree murder. It occurs when a person kills another person while committing or attempting to commit a dangerous felony. For example, if an offender stabs and kills the owner of a convenience store while robbing it, then they may be charged with felony murder as well as robbery.

Penalties for Homicide in California

The penalties for homicide in California vary depending on the degree of murder or manslaughter committed.

Manslaughter Penalties

A conviction for manslaughter could result in the following penalties:

  • Voluntary manslaughter: Three to 11 years in prison
  • Involuntary manslaughter: Two to four years in prison
  • Fines of up to $10,000
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Counseling

Vehicular Manslaughter Penalties

It’s important to know that vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler, meaning it could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The type of charge you will face is largely based on the level of negligence you acted with. You may face anywhere between one year in county jail up to six years in state prison for a vehicular manslaughter conviction.

Murder Penalties

A conviction for murder could result in the following penalties:

  • First-degree murder: Life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP)
  • Second-degree murder: 15 years to life in prison

Some aggravating factors could add time to your murder sentence. If the murder was committed in a drive-by shooting, the penalty is 25 years to life in prison. If a gun was used during the murder, the defendant may receive an additional 10, 20, or 25 years to life in prison.

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Why Hire a Folsom Homicide Lawyer?

Homicide charges are some of the most serious you can face, especially if you’re facing life in prison. However, being charged with homicide is not the same as being found guilty. You shouldn’t give up.

Folsom homicide lawyer Chris Walsh has handled many murder and manslaughter cases like yours. He is a former prosecutor, so he knows how the other side develops a case. He will use that knowledge to analyze the evidence against you and build you a strong defense.

Walsh Law will communicate with you honestly about your case. We won’t sugarcoat the gravity of your situation. However, we will do our best to get you the best outcome possible.

Defending Against Homicide Charges

No two homicide cases are exactly alike, and every case requires a custom defense strategy. The homicide attorneys at Walsh Law will evaluate every aspect of your case and aggressively attack the prosecution’s evidence against you.

We may argue one or a combination of:

  • Self-defense: You have the right to use reasonable force to protect yourself from harm.
  • Defense of others: This applies when you are defending someone else from harm.
  • Accidental death: This defense applies when you did not intend to kill anyone, and your actions were not reckless or negligent.
  • Mental illness: If you were not mentally capable of committing a crime, you may use this defense.
  • Misidentification: The victim or a witness may misidentify you as the perpetrator.

What’s the difference between murder and manslaughter?

Murder requires the intent of willful, deliberate, and premeditated actions with malice aforethought. Manslaughter does not require intent or malice aforethought. Additionally, manslaughter does not have to be premeditated. It may occur due to negligence.

Can I be charged with murder if I was defending myself?

You may be charged with murder even if you were defending yourself. However, you can assert the defense of self-defense in an attempt to avoid a conviction.

What should I do if I’m arrested for homicide?

If you’re arrested, you should remain silent. Do not talk to the police or anyone else about the incident. Contact a Folsom homicide lawyer as soon as possible. Do not resist arrest, and cooperate with the police physically. However, do not answer their questions until you speak with an attorney.

Call Walsh Law for Homicide Defense in Folsom

Any type of homicide charge is serious. A conviction of murder or manslaughter will forever change your life. Folsom homicide lawyer Chris Walsh knows how to fight these charges because he started his career as a prosecutor. He knows how the other side thinks and puts together a case. He will use that information to fight for you.

Call Walsh Law as soon as possible to protect your rights. Contact us today at 916-237-8270 to schedule an initial consultation.

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