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 (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 (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 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.
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 (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 (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):
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.
The penalties for homicide in California vary depending on the degree of murder or manslaughter committed.
A conviction for manslaughter could result in the following 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.
A conviction for murder could result in the following penalties:
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.