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  • former deputy public defender

    As a former Deputy Public Defender in Riverside County, Mr. Donath has always been on the defense side of the law. 

  • award winning certified criminal law specialist

    Top 100 Trial Attorneys in California 2012-2014, 2008 Trial Attorney of the Year by the Riverside County Public Defender's Office, and dozens of other awards and accolades.

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    Your lawyer should have a passion for defense, not just a passion for money. Reputation, vigor, and determination go a long way in this business.

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Riverside Murder and Attempted Murder Lawyer

Murder is one of the worst crimes a person can commit. Also one of the oldest, societies have penalized this act for millennia. Thus, accusations of murder or attempted murder can effectively ruin someone’s life. However, it does not have to. If you are accused of murdering or attempting to murder someone, it is crucial to know your rights and what you could be facing.

Know Your Murder Types

Every claim is handled differently. The type of murder determines how law enforcement will approach the case. To charge someone with murder or attempted murder, the prosecution must prove malice (expressed or implied) aforethought or intention to kill. The prosecution must also show evidence of an “abandoned and malignant heart.

In a homicide case, prosecutors try to show the defendant’s actions caused someone else’s death, that the defendant intended to take a life (acted with malice), and the defendant did so without any justifiable reason to do so. Evidence of premeditation, drunk driving, and acting in the heat of the moment may change the charges and the penalties a defendant faces.

The three types of murder or criminal homicide the state of California recognizes are:

  • Third-degree murder. Also referred to as manslaughter charges, third-degree murder involves any negligent action that results in someone’s death. For example, someone might face manslaughter charges for speeding in a boat, not requiring passengers to wear life vests, wrecking, and causing a loss of life. A person could also face manslaughter charges for firing a weapon into the air and accidentally killing someone.
  • Second-degree murder. Crimes of passion often fall into this category of murder. The law recognizes second-degree murder as intentional acts of killing that occur without pre-meditation. Bar fights and unexpected encounters may result in the second most severe type of murder charges.
  • First-degree murder. To prove first-degree murder, a prosecutor must prove the defendant acted with express or implied malice aforethought. Express malice includes any physical act that proves the intent to kill such as planning the attack or murder. Implied malice includes circumstances that show the defendant killed with “an abandoned and malignant heart.” For example, torturing and then killing someone might provide implied malice, even if the defendant did not expressly demonstrate a premeditated intent to kill.

In first-degree cases, the prosecution alleges that the accused showed a premeditated, deliberate attempt to kill as well as one of the circumstances that qualify a crime as homicide. These include:

  • Using weapons of mass destruction – bombs, explosive devices, etc.
  • Using firearms or armor-piercing ammunition
  • Poisoning
  • Torturing the victim
  • Shooting a firearm from a motor vehicle
  • Killing while carrying out another felony, such as kidnapping, rape, or robbery 

None of the above special circumstances apply to second-degree murder. Its definition depends heavily on that of first-degree murder. That is, second-degree murder charges apply to homicides not found to be first-degree murder; however, prosecution still must prove malice aforethought and abandoned and malignant heart.

Do I Have a Defense?

Many clients believe all murder charges are indefensible, but this is far from true. For example, if the defense proves you lacked premeditation, prosecutors could drop your case or lessen the charges. Self-defense or defense of another person can be considered justifiable homicide in California. Finally, your defense attorney may be able to prove insanity or decreased mental capacity, which would hamper the prosecution’s ability to claim malice aforethought and planning. This could lessen your charges or get them dropped.

These are not the only defenses used in such cases, however. Others include:

  • Mistaken identity. Here, the attorney attempts to prove the prosecution is charging the wrong person. If you have an alibi, let your attorney know so he or she can present it as part of your case.
  • Exercise of duty. This often applies to law enforcement and similar officers whose jobs may require killing a dangerous person. The defense must be able to prove a lack of unlawful intent, recklessness, or negligence. If you are a law enforcement or other officer charged with murder, bring records and other evidence to your consultation. Your attorney may craft part of your defense based on exemplary past behavior, commendations, or times when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Accident. Killings committed by accident are not murder, although you could be charged with manslaughter. Accidental killings can be considered murder if they happen during the commission of another crime, such as child abuse.

Even if a homicide detective does not use the word “murder,” suspects and defendants may need to explore their legal rights and discuss the case with an attorney. Fighting murder charges almost always requires the support of a legal advocate who understands the state penal code and can develop an adequate defense strategy. Contact Riverside murder attorney Graham Donath if you need help, today.

What’s the Difference Between Murder and Homicide?

All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. Although people use the words interchangeably, homicide is actually a broader term that includes every purposeful act of killing including both murder and self-defense. The difference between murder and homicide could mean the difference between a lifetime in prison and freedom.

By definition, homicide is the act of killing another human. Homicides include every purposeful act that directly results in another’s death. Technically, murder, euthanasia, self-defense killings, and capital punishment are all forms of homicide.

When investigating a homicide, detectives will try to classify the act as criminal or justifiable. Justifiable homicides include self-defense, military duty killings, and appropriate law enforcement duty killings. Both murder and manslaughter constitute criminal homicides.

If the prosecution pursues a case and the jury classifies the homicidal act as justifiable, the defendant will not face any penalties. However, the record of the case and the judgment will remain in the court system.

The law classifies a homicide as murder in unjustified killings. The state of California and many other states classify murder in three different ways depending on the defendant’s intention and actions.

Hire an Attorney Now

Murder is an extremely serious crime. Punishment can include imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole or a sentence to death. Although the court ruled that California’s death penalty system was unconstitutional in 2014, the state still makes allowances for this consequence in capital crimes.

If you face murder or attempted murder charges in Orange or Riverside County, contact the law offices of Graham Donath for assistance. Donath, an award-winning defense attorney, has handled thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases, including murder and manslaughter. He is certified in criminal defense law – one of a small number of such attorneys in California.