What Constitutes Intent In a California Murder Charge?

Stockton Criminal Law AttorneyWhen it comes to murder charges in California, intent can become a pivotal center of debate. This is because in order for a murder charge to stick, it has to be shown that the defendant deliberately and purposely set out to murder another person. Deaths resulting from accidents, even when the defendant acts in a way that is negligent or reckless, would otherwise fall under manslaughter or other charges.

For this post, we’re taking a quick look at what constitutes intent in a murder charge in CA. These cases are often complex and carry huge implications for all involved parties, so keep in mind that for in-depth advice, you should always reach out to a qualified defense attorney ASAP. With that being said, here’s a rundown on how intent is established when it comes to murder charges in CA.

Defining First and Second Degree Murder

First degree murder is a severe charge that is only applied under certain circumstances. With this type of charge, there must be a premeditated and deliberate plan/intent to kill under special circumstances. These include slayings that involve bombs or weapons of mass destruction, firearms shot from a vehicle, poison, and more. In addition, any murders that occur while the defendant is commiting a felony also fall under first degree murder. In these cases, intent is fairly clear-cut, at least in comparison to second degree murder.

Second degree murder is more spontaneous in nature and occurs when someone decides to kill another person in the heat of the moment. In these cases, proving intent becomes more muddled, and the courts must consider the context of the outburst/conflict along with the other person’s actions. As a rough guideline, defendants must ask themselves if their actions were reasonable or expected, etc. For example, going to grab a weapon after a random bar fight would not fall under self-defense, no matter who started the conflict.

Attorneys Must Approach Each Murder Case On Its Own Terms

At the end of the day, murder trials are complicated proceedings that need to be approached on a case-by-case basis. This is why, when dealing with a specific situation or facing a murder charge in CA, you need to talk to a qualified criminal defense attorney before anything else.

If you want to learn more about murder charges and intent in CA, remember that you can reach out to us at the Jacot Law Firm. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation.