Murder carries severe penalties in most legal systems throughout the world, and the State of California is no exception. Capital murder in California can result in the death penalty. If you, a family member or friend have been charged with murder, is there a defense?

Every circumstance is different, but the answer to the question is “yes.” There are a number of defenses that have been successfully used against murder charges.

Whether or not any of these defenses apply in your case is something that can only be determined by an experienced California criminal defense attorney after careful review of your case. You may feel better, however, knowing some of the more commonly used defenses. Including, but not limited to:

Mistaken identity or “I didn’t do it” – this is simple enough to explain. This defense claims that you did not cause the death of the victim. This could mean that you are claiming someone mistakenly identified you as the perpetrator but you were nowhere near the scene of the killing or that you were there at the time of the killing but that you did not cause the death.

Self-defense – this defense requires you to admit to causing the death of the victim but claims that you were forced to kill because the victim was threatening serious bodily harm or death to you.

Defense of others – this is the same as self-defense except you claim that someone else was at risk of serious harm or death from the victim.

Accident – this defense also requires you to admit that you caused the death of the victim; however, unlike self-defense you are alleging that you had no intention of harming the victim.

Insanity or lack of capacity – to be convicted of murder, as opposed to other offenses that relate to the killing of another human being, you must have the requisite “means rea”, or state of mind. First degree murder in California, for example, requires you to have willfully, or intentionally, caused the death of the victim. Claiming insanity means you are asserting that you did not understand the nature of the act or that you did not understand right from wrong.

Illegal search, coerced confessions, tainted chain of custody and other police conduct – sometimes the evidence gathered by law enforcement can be attacked because it was obtained illegally or not properly handled after discovery. Evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure, for example, may be excluded from trial, effectively providing you with a defense.

Excerpted from an original post to the San Diego Criminal Law Blog by By Domenic J. Lombardo on Oct 23, 2014.

This article is not intended to provide legal advice. For legal advice regarding any of the information in this post, please use the form to the right or contact us by phone at 805-882-2402