One of the most serious charges a person can face is murder.
Many might not realize that California recognizes several types of this crime, each with its own circumstances.
Two factors can result in a first-degree murder charge. The first and most common factor is the deliberate formulation of a plan. The individual carries out elements of the homicide deliberately. The courts usually refer to this as premeditation.
The second is when a person commits homicide during another serious crime such as robbery, burglary, arson or kidnapping. This is sometimes referred to as felony murder.
Only slightly less serious than first-degree murder, second-degree murder refers to homicide without a plan. It implies that the act was impulsive rather than deliberate.
Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter happens when someone commits a homicide in the heat of passion rather than preplanning the act. These usually are due to an argument or stressful situation. It is less serious than second-degree murder.
Involuntary manslaughter is unintentional. The courts consider this involuntary because it often results from negligence or reckless behavior rather than intention.
This is a specific form of involuntary manslaughter that applies when a person causes a death while operating a vehicle recklessly.
When a person causes a death while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is a DUI murder. With more than one DUI conviction, the courts may increase the charge to second-degree murder under California’s “Watson Advisory” law.
Despite hitting an all-time low in 2019, the overall homicide rate is rising in California as of 2021. The courts differentiate between the circumstances and types of murders to ensure the penalties they impose fit the crime and to understand the rising crime rates.