Riverside Homicide Defense Attorney

In cases where a loss of life has been attributed to another person, the situation may seem fairly straightforward. After all, homicide is considered one of the most serious crimes a person can commit, often categorized as especially heinous under criminal law. However, it’s important to understand that there are many factors to consider when dealing with murder charges. The act of homicide itself is fairly narrowly defined as the act of killing another person, but depending on the situation, said homicide could be considered an act of impulse, a premeditated act, or even a lawful display of self-defense. If you are being charged with homicide, that means that the homicide has been ruled to be unlawful. That said, even then there are multiple different charges per California law, with varying degrees of severity and consequences.

Generally speaking, violent crime charges of homicide are divided into two categories. The first is manslaughter, and this refers to situations where the murder was not planned in advance. Manslaughter charges are further divided into categories depending on the circumstances under which the murder was committed. Murder born out of impulse is considered voluntary manslaughter, as it is a very intentional act, despite the lack of premeditation. When a murder occurs as the result of an accident, usually due to negligence, this is classified as involuntary manslaughter. Examples of such cases include arguments where a deadly weapon was accidentally discharged, the provision of drugs that ultimately lead to a fatal overdose, and the reckless behavior from a doctor that resulted in a patient’s death, among other things.

In California, involuntary manslaughter cases involving a vehicle are separated into their own category, referred to as vehicular manslaughter. Engaging in any sort of negligent behavior while driving—such as texting, speeding, or running a red light—that resulted in a homicide would fall under this category. If drugs or alcohol were involved, the driver would likely be charged with a slight variation referred to as vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Alternatively, if the homicide was premeditated or considered especially malicious, then it falls under the category of a murder charge. As with manslaughter charges, murder is generally further subdivided into three categories, known as first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and capital murder. First-degree murder applies to most situations where unlawful murder was planned in advance. However, if the murder occurs while a felony is being committed, the accused might be charged with felony murder instead. Both charges are viewed very similarly in the eyes of California courts.

Second-degree murder does not require any advance planning; however, it must be committed with deliberate intent. Given the lack of premeditation, this may seem similar to voluntary manslaughter. The main difference between the two usually comes down to the person’s state of mind and mental faculties at the time the act took place. The latter is used in cases where the accused became so emotionally disturbed by the situation that they impulsively committed the act. At the same time, second-degree murder describes a scenario where the accused made the conscious decision to end someone’s life.

Finally, capital murder charges apply when there are additional special circumstances involved. California law is very specific regarding defining what constitutes capital murder, listing a total of 20 scenarios. However, some of the most common scenarios included under capital murder are hate crimes, murders of public servants, mass murders, killing for financial gain, and killing to prevent someone from testifying in court.

Regardless of the charge, working with a Riverside homicide defense lawyer is critical to ensuring that all evidence is properly vetted and that your rights are upheld in court.

What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?

When violent crimes occur, arrests are made and homicide charges are filed, criminal defendants need experienced representation throughout every phase of the legal process.

With your Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney at The Law Offices of Schwartz & Godbey, you’ll get more than 30 years of experience on your side as you attempt to avoid a conviction for murder and the harsh punishments that await — a lengthy prison term (25 years to life under California’s three-strikes law), substantial fines, a criminal record, separation from loved ones, damage to reputation and a host of other negative impacts.

For murder charges or an arrest for any violent crime, from gang activity to armed robbery, from domestic violence that can trigger homicide to the violation of a protective order, our law firm can help. We have the dedication, responsiveness, resources, and personal service that can turn your life in a positive direction.

At the Law Offices of Schwartz & Godbey, prosecutors are not in charge. We are.

Our team approach to your legal issues is inclusive. It means:

  • Forceful litigation that persuasively spells out your side of the story
  • Intense investigation of circumstances leading to the homicide
  • Careful inspection of the constitutionality of police behavior during the arrest
  • Skillful negotiations with prosecutors in jurisdictions where our law offices are well known.

If a trial is necessary in state court, Catherine A. Schwartz and her associates work hard to hold prosecutors to their burden of proof. She uses evidence, eyewitness accounts, and the concept of “reasonable doubt” in arguments that resonate with judge and jury alike. When your work together has concluded, you will know that your rights have been protected.

What Are the 4 Defenses to a Crime?

In most criminal cases, four main legal defenses can be used to excuse the crimes committed or help reduce the charges. Essentially these break down into claiming complete innocence, acting in self-defense, being in a state of insanity, and your constitutional rights being violated. While all of these are commonly used in criminal cases, they are not interchangeable. Your Riverside murder defense attorney can help determine which is most applicable in your situation.

The first is relatively straightforward and would apply in situations where you were wrongly accused of a crime you did not commit. The second refers to instances where there is additional context missing from the case, which helps to explain why the act was committed. In California, self-defense can be used as justification for crimes as serious as murder. However, the defendant must demonstrate that acting in this way was their only recourse. Using insanity as a criminal defense means proving that you were not in your right mind at the time. This generally would apply in situations where mental illness is involved. Finally, if your constitutional rights have been violated during the court proceedings, it might be possible to have the charges entirely dismissed. Regardless of your status as a defendant, you still have rights, and these must be upheld in court for you to be lawfully prosecuted.

What Two Defenses Are Unique to Attempt?

Of the various types of criminal defenses described above, two are particularly unusual to attempt in a court of law: self-defense and insanity. For starters, in both cases, the defense begins with the assertion that the defendant committed the crime. This admission of responsibility means that the prosecution no longer has to build a case to prove your involvement, making a conviction far more likely. Additionally, both cases require you to provide conclusive evidence supporting your claim. However, this can be very difficult to obtain.

If you are claiming the act of murder was committed purely in self-defense, then two things must be established in court. The first is that the defendant felt threatened or was in danger. The second is that, due to the amount of risk present, murder was the only option available. Any suggestion that incapacitation or calls for emergency assistance from the police may have been possible as an alternative to murder could invalidate claims of self-defense. This is especially difficult when there are no witnesses or footage to corroborate your statement.

If you are claiming the act of murder was committed due to a loss of mental faculties, then this too must be proven in court. However, without a straightforward diagnosis supporting your claims, this can be almost impossible to do. While members of the court are called to act impartially, they are not likely to look favorably upon those accused of murder, and statements from the defendant regarding their state of mind will have little standing.

Both forms of defense would generally only be used in instances where your legal team is certain that your statements can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

What Are the Three Types of Inchoate Crimes?

In addition to charges of manslaughter and murder, there are also inchoate crimes that might apply in the event of a homicide. Inchoate crimes, also described as preliminary or incomplete crimes, allow the prosecution to pursue those that intended to commit a crime but were unsuccessful or were involved in a criminal act without playing a direct role in the events. For instance, even if you did not personally commit a murder, you could still be accused of an inchoate crime in relation to that murder. The three types of inchoate crimes are attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy.

The first refers to situations where the defendant attempted to commit murder but could not complete the act. For the charges to be made, the attempt must have been intentional, and actions must have been taken to carry out the attempt. For example, a person trying to fatally poison their spouse who failed due to a miscalculation could be accused of attempting murder. However, a person merely talking about how badly they wish to poison their spouse without ever actually acting upon said threats could not.

The next inchoate crime is solicitation. This refers to a scenario where the defendant intentionally wishes death upon another party but utilizes an intermediary to commit the actual murder. Even if the murder is not committed, the mere act of solicitation is enough to result in a charge. To successfully prove solicitation took place, there usually must be some exchange of goods.

Finally, there is the inchoate crime of conspiracy. This describes situations where two or more people conspired together to commit the act of murder. Even if another one of the people involved commits the actual act, you could still be accused of conspiracy to murder.

Are you facing murder charges in Riverside County or San Bernardino County?

If so, you could benefit from the aggressive advocacy of criminal defense lawyers you can trust — the Law Offices of Schwartz & Godbey in Riverside. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz & Godbey to arrange your free initial consultation. Our number is 951-338-5962. We give prompt attention to your email message. Evening and weekend appointments are available by appointment.