Homicide Charges in California

Few crimes carry the stigma, or the heavy penalties, of homicide.  Any offense that involves taking the life of another human being is treated harshly by the criminal justice system.  At RJT Criminal Defense, we are veteran criminal trial attorneys who understand the importance of investigation, planning, and following a well-thought out defense strategy.  We have the experience and skills to provide you with an aggressive defense, with the goal of securing a dismissal, a reduction in the charges against you, or a not guilty verdict.

When our firm is retained to defend a client charged with homicide, we review the government’s case.  But we do not rest there.  We conduct an investigation on our client’s behalf, which allows us to develop the facts necessary mount a successful defense.  Our years defending those charged with crimes has enabled us to analyze the prosecutor’s case, and to spot weaknesses, including alternative theories of how the events occurred.  We know how a criminal prosecution is developed by the government, and this allows us to develop a game plan that will place us in the best possible position to achieve a successful result in your case.

Not All Homicide Charges Are Equal

For most people, when they think of homicide, they picture a murder case, probably first degree murder. But there are many levels of offenses under the heading of homicide. The one thing they all have in common is that every one of the crimes involves the unlawful killing of another person. Beyond that, the differences among some of the various homicide offenses outweigh the similarities:


Murder is defined as the killing of another person with “malice aforethought.” That phrase is specified in PC 187(a) as either express or implied. Express malice aforethought is present when the circumstances demonstrated a deliberate attempt to take the life of another. It is implied when it appears that there was no apparent provocation for the killing, and, in the words of the statute, the act showed “an abandoned and malignant heart.” This term originated in the 1600’s in England, and is not particularly helpful in understanding the crime of murder. What it means is that the defendant intentionally committed an act which was dangerous to human life, that this fact was known to the defendant, and that the defendant consciously disregarded that danger.


As in the case of murder, manslaughter includes more than one type of killing.  First, it can be voluntary or involuntary.  Voluntary manslaughter applies in situations where the killing was in the heat of passion, such as where the defendant and the victim became involved in a sudden argument.  Involuntary manslaughter includes an unlawful killing of another person which was the result of an unlawful act (which act is not a felony) or the doing of a lawful act in an unlawful way.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Drunk driving (and drugged driving) cases resulting in a death are treated under a separate statute. In some cases the charge may be upgraded to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, depending upon the circumstances.

Vehicular Manslaughter

This includes a killing that was the result of driving a motor vehicle. There are several different variations of vehicular manslaughter. The distinctions include, among others, whether there was gross negligence or ordinary negligence on the part of the driver.

Have You Been Charged With Homicide?

Whatever the specifics of your case may be, homicide of any type is a very serious charge. Almost all are felonies, and the penalties are harsh. You need an experienced criminal lawyer who understands how to defend these types of cases. If you are facing a homicide charge, contact RJT Criminal Defense today. We can help.