Any criminal conviction can have a dramatic impact on your life, but criminal offenses involving violence are the most serious, both in terms of the sentences these offenses often carry and the range of adverse effects they can have on the convicted person’s life. “Homicide” is a legal term used to define the killing of another person. Homicide offenses are some of the most serious criminal charges a person can face. The sentence for many homicide offenses includes years in state prison, substantial fines, etc.
If you or a loved one is charged with any form of homicide in Costa Mesa or Rancho Santa Margarita, you must secure defense representation you can trust as you approach your case. Every American citizen has the right to legal counsel after an arrest for any offense, including the most severe crimes pertaining to killing others. The right homicide defense attorney in Costa Mesa can help you determine the best possible defenses to the charges you face.
Brown & Stedman LLP has a team of experienced California criminal defense attorneys who have successfully handled many difficult criminal cases throughout the Costa Mesa area. Our firm has the resources and experience necessary to navigate the most challenging of these cases, and we know the tactics many local prosecutors use to secure convictions. When you face a criminal charge as serious as homicide, you need the best criminal defense representation you can find.
Every American citizen has the right to legal counsel when accused of a crime. However, if the defendant does not wish to pay for a private defense attorney or cannot afford to hire one, the court can appoint a public defender to act as their defense counsel at no charge. While sticking with a public defender may seem like a good way to save money on legal fees, the reality is that an experienced private criminal defense lawyer can offer a much higher level of defense representation.
Even the best public defenders are restricted by the nature of their work. They must often handle multiple cases at a time and may not be able to devote more than an hour or two each day to handling a particular case. As a result, while most public defenders working in Costa Mesa and Rancho Santa Margarita are hardworking, dedicated defense attorneys, they simply cannot offer their clients much in the way of individual attention.
When you face a criminal charge as serious as homicide, you need to approach the case with confidence and peace of mind. An experienced homicide defense attorney in Costa Mesa can help you determine the best defenses available to you, prepare you for each courtroom appearance, and ultimately provide more individualized attention to your case than you could expect from a public defender.
The attorneys at Brown & Stedman LLP understand that every criminal case involves unique variables, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to criminal defense. When you need an experienced attorney to represent you in a homicide case, we will take the time to learn as much about the situation in question as possible. We’ll carefully evaluate all potential avenues of defense on your behalf and help you mitigate any penalties for conviction as much as possible.
“Homicide” is a blanket legal term used to describe most incidents of one person taking another person’s life. Homicide can occur in many ways, and there are various homicide offenses listed in the California Penal Code, each entailing severe penalties upon conviction. One of the most critical factors in every homicide case is intent, or premeditation. Premeditation is the planning of a criminal act, which determines the difference between a murder charge and a manslaughter charge. Murder occurs when one person plans and completes the killing of another person. Manslaughter occurs when one person kills another person but does not premeditate or plan the killing.
In California, the most serious homicide charge that a person can face is capital murder, also known as “murder with special circumstances.” This offense is typically characterized as the intentional and premeditated killing of more than one person, killing a witness set to testify against a defendant, murder for financial gain, and killing in a drive-by shooting. The penalties for capital murder conviction can include the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
The next-highest level homicide offense in California is first-degree murder. This offense is the intentional and premeditated killing of another person. The penalty for conviction of this offense in California is 25 years to life in prison. The defendant will also likely face a civil claim for wrongful death from the victim’s family. This offense shares the same penalty as felony murder, which occurs when a defendant causes the death of another person while committing a different felony.
Second-degree murder does not require premeditation, but it does require intent to do harm and intentional action. This means the defendant must have intended to harm the victim in question. Whether they planned for the death to occur only matters in determining whether the offense qualifies as first- or second-degree murder. Second-degree murder is often called a “crime of passion” that occurs in the heat of the moment, and the penalty for second-degree murder in California is 15 years to life in prison.
Many people conflate “murder” and “manslaughter,” but they are legally distinct. “Murder” applies to any situation in which the killing of another person is a premeditated act, whereas “manslaughter” applies when a killing was done with intent to harm but not planned or necessarily intended to kill the victim.
Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another person that does not fit the definition of murder. For example, reacting to a specific situation quickly by killing another person would constitute manslaughter since the killer reacted too quickly for premeditation. Involuntary manslaughter is the unintended killing of another person when the defendant had no intention of causing anyone’s death.
California’s Penal Code includes a specific manslaughter charge for homicides from traffic accidents. For example, if a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes a fatal accident, but the offense does not rise to the level of a felony, they would face a vehicular manslaughter charge. This same charge would apply if the offender intentionally caused an accident for an insurance claim but accidentally caused the death of another person.
If you are arrested for any homicide charge in Costa Mesa or Rancho Santa Margarita, it’s vital to understand the constitutional rights that come into play for you in this situation. First, the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees you the right to remain silent. This amendment states that no one should be compelled to act as a witness against themselves in a criminal case, essentially providing legal protection against self-incrimination. When you are arrested, the police must read you your Miranda rights and inform you of your right to remain silent. Anything you say could be used against you in your subsequent criminal proceedings.
The second constitutional right you must exercise is your Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel. You have the right to defense representation when you are accused of any crime. If you cannot afford to hire a private defense attorney or do not wish to hire one, the court will appoint a public defender to act as your defense counsel. However, if you can do so, hiring an experienced homicide defense attorney in Costa Mesa will provide a much higher level of legal representation for your criminal case.
A homicide case will begin with pretrial hearings and an arraignment or formal reading of the charges against the defendant. It’s possible you could face a homicide charge as a standalone offense or multiple criminal charges for actions related to the homicide in question. After the judge overseeing arraignment formally reads your charges, you will have the opportunity to enter your plea.
If you plead guilty or no contest, the case will proceed to sentencing. It’s important to note the difference between a “guilty” and a “no contest” plea. Entering a guilty plea means acknowledging legal responsibility for the offense in question. Entering a plea of no contest means that you are not legally admitting guilt or taking formal responsibility for the offense. Entering a no contest plea can be advantageous to a defendant who also faces a civil claim related to the offense in question, as their guilty plea could not be used against them in this civil case.
If you plead not guilty, a trial ensues. The criminal justice system of the United States upholds due process, requiring prosecutors in a criminal case to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution and the defense must engage in a discovery process in which they will share all relevant information and evidence. Once discovery is complete, the trial begins, and the defendant must be found guilty by unanimous verdict from a jury for them to be convicted.
When a defendant is found guilty by jury verdict, the case proceeds to sentencing. The judge will use the California Penal Code to determine an appropriate sentence for the defendant. Aggravating and mitigating factors strongly factor into sentencing. Aggravating factors will make the judge more likely to seek a stronger penalty, while mitigating factors may urge the judge to show leniency.
Perhaps the most important defense consideration in a homicide case is proving a lack of premeditation. Proving that you did not plan for the death in question can significantly reduce your sentence if convicted. Another mitigating factor you could employ is demonstrating a lack of intent. If you can successfully establish that you did not intend for the death in question, you could have a murder charge reduced to manslaughter or a manslaughter charge lowered to involuntary status.
Self-defense is another commonly used defense in homicide cases. California does not uphold a “Stand Your Ground” law or any formal descriptions of acceptable self-defense other than a defendant’s right to assert self-defense as an affirmative defense in a criminal case. However, the defendant must prove they had reasonable belief that they or someone else was in immediate danger and that they only used the force they believed necessary to escape that danger or neutralize the threat.
When it comes to using deadly force in self-defense, the defendant must prove that the threat they faced posed an imminent mortal danger and that they reasonably believed that they had no other choice but to use the level of force employed in the situation in question. It is also possible to claim self-defense if you acted on behalf of protecting another person from an immediate mortal threat.
When you hire Brown & Stedman LLP to represent you in any homicide case in Orange County, CA, you can expect aggressive and comprehensive defense representation. While it is up to the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant should not be passive in their homicide case. Therefore, it’s vital to work closely with your defense lawyer to develop the most robust possible defense against the serious charges you face.
A defense attorney’s primary concern is to have their client’s charges dismissed. However, this is not always possible. If the prosecution has an airtight case against the defendant and conviction is all but a certainty, plea bargaining may be the best available option for the defendant. Plea bargaining is the process of exchanging a swift guilty plea for a lighter sentence or reduced charges. This may not be possible in all homicide cases, especially those pertaining to capital murder, first-degree murder, and felony murder offenses. However, prosecutors may suggest plea bargaining in a lesser manslaughter case.
Your Orange County homicide defense lawyer will help you determine whether a plea bargain or a trial by jury would suit your best interests. Of course, there are risks in every option, and no defense attorney can guarantee any specific outcome to a client. However, investing in experienced and responsive defense representation is the best thing anyone can do when facing homicide charges in California.
Facing homicide charges in the Rancho Santa Margarita and Santa Ana areas of California means you need legal representation now. Brown & Stedman LLP can provide you with the representation you need to protect your rights.
We make it our firm’s signature goal to provide you with uniquely personalized legal representation. Our firm’s attorneys want to make their years of experience available to you directly, not through layers of administrators, assistants and other bureaucracy.
That means our attorneys communicate directly with you. We want to understand the facts of your case from a firsthand perspective so we can deliver the highest quality of personalized legal services.
You can also depend on us for a candid assessment of your situation.
The sooner you contact an Orange County homicide attorney, the better your chances are of securing the most successful possible outcome to your criminal case. Put our firm to work on protecting your rights. Call to schedule your free initial consultation: . You can also get in touch with us by email.
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