Located in San Mateo County, Redwood City, which is home to a county courthouse, has seen a varying, but low number of murders over the past decade. One source reports that there were three murders in Redwood City 2010, but 0 murders in 2011. Some of the murders in Redwood City have been gang-related, but motivations for these alleged acts run the gamut. In 2010, a man in the neighboring community of Woodside was charged with murdering his wife for insurance money. In 2012, a Redwood City man was charged with two felony counts of murder and two felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated when he crashed his car, killing his wife and son. Violent crime in Redwood City is found to occur at a higher rate than communities of various sizes across America, and deaths that occur as a result of specific violent crimes may be charged as murder.
The Elements of Murder
The law of murder is complex. Under Penal Code section 187(a), California law defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought.” An unlawful killing is a killing that has no legal justification, such as the belief that you need to protect yourself from an imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured. To a layperson, the element of “malice aforethought” may suggest that the accused must have a reason to kill or dislike or hate the person who was killed. However, “malice aforethought” simply refers to the state of mind the accuser must have had at the time he or she committed the act that caused the murder. Penal Code section 188 and California Jury Instruction 520 describe two kinds of malice aforethought: express and implied. Express malice means the accused showed a deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a fellow person. Alternatively, implied malice may be found if four separate requirements are met: (1) the accused acted intentionally (though he may not have intended to kill a specific person), (2) the natural consequences of that act are dangerous to human life, (3) the accused knew that this act was dangerous to human life, and (4) the accused acted with conscious disregard for human life. California law provides for three ways to be convicted of first-degree murder. First, you can be convicted for first-degree murder if you killed someone using specified destructive devices, or poison, or by lying in wait, or by inflicting torture. Second, you can be convicted of first-degree murder if you killed someone in a way that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated. Third, California has also adopted a felony murder rule, which means that first-degree murder may be charged where a death results from the commission of enumerated violent felonies, such as robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or rape. Other types of charges that may be brought against you if you have killed someone are capital murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain the different charges particular to your situation in greater detail.
What Are Some Defenses?
Two possible defenses to a murder charge are defense of self or defense of others. The difficulty here lies in proving that the accused acted with timeliness and a level of force that was proportional to the threat of danger or harm. Another defense is mistaken identity. This is appropriate if the accused has an alibi and could not have committed the crime. It is also appropriate if a criminal defense attorney can prove that another person killed the deceased person, eyewitness testimony contains flaws or serious inconsistences, or there was a problem with the forensics. Other possibilities include constitutional defenses like illegal search and seizure, accidental killing, or the insanity defense. Getting the right kind of defense for your case in front of the judge or jury in Redwood City or surrounding areas depends on securing the services of attorneys with significant murder trial experience in San Mateo County.
The penalties for a murder conviction, as you may know, are more severe than for most other crimes. If convicted of first-degree murder in California, you are facing a prison sentence of 25 years-to-life. However, this conviction comes with a life sentence without possibility of parole if it is found to be a hate crime committed against a victim because of his or her race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or nationality. Furthermore, special circumstances may elevate a first-degree murder to a capital murder charge; in that case, you are eligible for the death penalty.
A murder conviction can also count as a strike against you under California’s Three Strikes Law, potentially leading to greater penalties down the road. If you have been accused of murder, the consequences are life-changing, and in some cases may mean the eventual loss of your own life.
The Redwood City murder defense attorneys at Dudek & Cintean, LLP can help you. We have successfully defended many murder and manslaughter cases and will use our knowledge and skills as former prosecutors and experienced criminal defense attorneys to give you the most vigorous defense possible. For a confidential consultation, call our Redwood City office at (650) 249-6805.