Murder charges are some of the most serious charges in California and federal courts. Take the time to read below to find out what it means to be charged with murder in California or federal courts and what you - with a strong murder defense lawyer - can do to help your case.

What is Homicide?

Put simply, homicide is the killing of human being. Homicide itself is not criminal in nature. In the civil context, homicide is also alleged as a wrongful death action. In the criminal context it is called criminal homicide. Criminal homicide occurs when a person unlawfully and knowingly, recklessly, or negligently causes the death of another human being.

Depending on the circumstances, criminal homicide can be one of several crimes. Most commonly, homicides are categorized as murders or manslaughters.

What is Murder?

There are actually several types of murder, which are broken down into varying degrees. There are primarily type three types of murder: premeditated murder, felony murder, and lesser degree murder.

What is Premeditated Murder?

Premeditated murder is almost always classified as first-degree murder. Second-degree murder is always a lesser charge. A person committing first-degree murder must form the intent to kill their victim. The person must have what is called malice aforethought; that is, the defendant must have an angry or calico mental state toward the victim that allowed the defendant to plan the victim's murder.

What is Felony Murder?

A person can be held responsible for murder even if that person wasn't directly involved in the killing. This is known as the felony murder rule. The rule applies to those who agree to act with other to commit a serious or violent criminal act. If one of the parties to the criminal enterprise commits murder, all are held to be equally culpable under the rule. For example, assume two defendants conspire to commit a bank robbery. One defendant drives the getaway car while the other robs the bank. The latter person then kills somebody inside. The getaway driver will be held liable for the murder as if they pulled the trigger themselves.

What are the Lesser-Degree Murders?

Defendants who do not intend to kill but only intend to really hurt the victim are not guilty of first-degree murder. They are said to possess an intent to do serious bodily harm/injury (SBI). These convictions may result in a conviction of second-degree murder or even manslaughter depending on the circumstances.

Regardless of which type of murder you are charged with, in federal or California courts, it is important you contact and eventually hire an experienced attorney who knows how to defend these cases. Call for further questions.