Murder, manslaughter and homicide are terms you may have heard in regard to the loss of a person's life in California. Findlaw notes that killing any person unlawfully is homicide if the victim dies within three years and a day of the act.
What about murder and manslaughter, though?
Many deaths happen because of some unfortunate incident that happens in the moment, and these are typically considered manslaughter. If there is no malice between you and the victim before the event, and there is no evidence that you ever considered killing him or her, you may face a manslaughter charge rather than first or second degree murder.
If you are facing any kind of murder charge, the prosecutor must prove that you thought about killing someone before you did it and made a plan. Alternately, the court may decide that your behavior was so extremely reckless, it implied that you acted intentionally out of a disregard for that person's life and safety.
Simultaneous crimes and weapons
You would only be convicted of murder in the first degree if your premeditated act occurred while you were committing another felony, such as kidnapping, rape or burglary. The weapon matters, too, as an explosive device or a weapon of mass destruction could be used to commit the act. Other methods may involve the following:
- Ammunition that can pierce armor
- A firearm discharged from a moving vehicle
If the act involves torture, it could also result in a first degree murder charge.
Any other homicide that qualifies as murder but does not include the above may result in a second degree murder charge. This information is general in nature, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.