A murder conviction can result in the most serious penalties in Nevada County, including up to life in prison without parole. Although you will be offered a public defender, they likely won’t have much time to dedicate to your case. You need an experienced Nevada County murder attorney who can build you the strongest defense possible.

Are you under investigation or accused of murder in Nevada County, CA? Call Walsh Law at (530) 499-0645 or use our contact form to schedule an initial consultation with a Nevada County murder case lawyer.

Types of Murder Charges in Nevada County

In California, “murder” is defined by California Penal Code Section 187(a) PC as “the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.” There are different categories of murder in California, but they all involve malice aforethought.

What Is Malice Aforethought?

Malice aforethought is an important legal term in California’s murder definition, as it specifies the mental state required for a conviction. Simply put, it refers to the act of intentionally committing an act with an awareness of the high probability of harming or killing another person.

Malice aforethought may be express or implied. Express malice aforethought involves the direct and specific intent to kill another person. Implied malice demonstrates a conscious disregard for human life that is described as a “depraved heartlessness.”

First-Degree Murder

Under California Penal Code Section 189 PC, first-degree murder is an unlawful killing that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated. Additionally, it is committed with malice aforethought.

Capital Murder

Under California Penal Code Section 190.2 PC, capital murder is a type of first-degree murder that involves special circumstances spelled out in the code. Those circumstances include, but are not limited to:

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

Second-Degree Murder

Under California law, second-degree murder is any murder that is not first-degree murder. Second-degree murder requires malice aforethought but does not typically involve premeditation or deliberation. For example, a person may not have the intent to kill, but their actions may demonstrate a conscious disregard for human life. This may amount to second-degree murder.

Felony Murder

Felony murder is a type of murder that occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a qualifying felony that is the direct cause or natural consequence of death. Felony murder may be charged as first-degree murder or second-degree murder depending on the circumstances.

Qualifying felonies in a felony murder charge include, but are not limited to:

  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Carjacking
  • Torture
  • Sodomy

You do not have to actually cause a death to be charged with felony murder. The prosecution must simply prove that death was a foreseeable result of the committed felony.

Charges Related to Murder in Nevada County

Prosecutors will try to impose the greatest charges possible, even if a killing does not occur. They will also add on aggravating circumstances in an attempt to extend your sentence. Some offenses related to murder include:

Attempted Murder: In California, attempted murder is defined under California Penal Code Section 664 PC in conjunction with California Penal Code Section 187 PC, which defines murder. It essentially means trying to kill someone without successfully doing so. It involves intent to kill, a direct (but unsuccessful) step, and malice aforethought.

DUI Murder: This is a descriptive way to refer to second-degree murder charges stemming from a fatal DUI accident. It’s also called Watson murder, named after a landmark California Supreme Court case (People v. Watson) that established the possibility of charging DUI drivers with murder under certain conditions.

Street Gang Enhancement: In California, a “street gang enhancement” refers to additional prison time added to a sentence when someone is convicted of a crime in association with or to benefit a criminal gang. It can result in 15 years to life added to any base murder sentence.

Penalties for Murder in Nevada County

Nevada County prosecutors are harsh on murder. They seek the highest penalties possible and rarely accept a plea deal unless you have a solid defense. If convicted, you will face years in prison and many other consequences, including:

  • First-Degree Murder – 25 years to life in state prison
  • Capital Murder – life without the possibility of parole
  • Second-Degree Murder – 15 years to life in state prison

There are aggravating factors that can extend your sentence, including gang enhancements, gun enhancements, prior murder convictions, and more.

Other Collateral Consequences of a Murder Conviction

Even if you are eventually released from prison, your life will forever be changed after a murder conviction. The collateral consequences you may face include:

  • Loss of civil rights (voting, gun possession, etc.)
  • Difficulty obtaining and maintaining employment
  • Difficulty finding safe housing
  • Limitations on public benefits (food stamps, public housing, etc.)
  • Immigration and citizenship issues
  • Barriers to education and financial aid
  • Loss and restriction of professional licenses
  • Social stigma and discrimination

Defenses to Murder Charges in California

Just because you were charged with murder does not mean you have been convicted. You have a legal right to defend yourself. Nevada County murder defense lawyer Chris Walsh knows how the prosecution develops murder cases because he used to work for the other side. Now, he uses his knowledge to protect those who have been accused.

We may use one or more of the following defenses in your case:

Self-Defense or Defense of Others

California law allows you to use reasonable force to protect yourself and others from imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm. This can be used to potentially exonerate you or reduce your charges.


An “accident” defense in a murder case hinges on proving that the death occurred unintentionally and without criminal negligence. You must show there was no intent to kill, there was no recklessness, and a reasonable mistake was made.

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

If you did not have the mental capacity to form intent to kill someone, then you may be able to use the insanity plea. This defense is extremely difficult to use and should be carefully crafted by an attorney.

Nevada County Murder Charge FAQs

What happens during a murder trial?

During a murder trial, the prosecution tries to prove the defendant committed murder beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense argues their case and presents evidence to counter the prosecution’s claims. Both sides present oral arguments as well as physical and testimonial evidence to support their cases. In the end, a jury will decide the guilt of the defendant.

What happens if a murder defendant is found guilty?

They will be sentenced according to California laws and the judge’s discretion. This might involve prison time, fines, and other penalties. In many cases, the defendant will be taken into custody right away.

What is “aiding and abetting” murder?

Aiding and abetting murder is intentionally helping or encouraging someone to commit murder. These actions can lead to charges, even if you didn’t directly participate in the killing.

Get Help from a Nevada County Murder Lawyer

You shouldn’t be dealing with criminal charges alone. The experienced murder defense attorneys at Walsh Law know how to use California murder laws to support your case and get you the best outcome possible. The sooner you contact attorney Chris Walsh, the sooner you will have trusted representation by your side.

Call (530) 499-0645 today or use our online contact form to schedule a confidential and free initial consultation with a Nevada County murder charge lawyer.

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