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Murder is defined in California Penal Code § 187(a) and is generally defined as the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.

There are certain exceptions to the murder statute. In addition, there are certain defenses to a charge of murder, including, but not limited to self-defense.

The possible punishment for murder varies, but can include the death penalty, life without the possibility of parole or life with the possibility of parole. Also, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, punishment could include a determinate state prison sentence. In order for the death penalty to apply, at least one of twenty two special circumstances must be charged and found true by a trier of fact.

Murder can generally be divided into two classes, murder and manslaughter. Murder can also be divided into degrees. First degree murder is all murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, or any act punishable under Section 206, 286, 288, 288a, or 289, or any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death, is murder of the first degree.

All other murder is considered second degree.

DUI/Vehicular Murder - If a person has a previous conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both alcohol and drugs, depending on the circumstances, that individual can be charged with second degree murder.

Felony Murder - A killing in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of a felony, when someone other than an accomplice in the commission of the felony is killed, is felony murder.

Just like murder, manslaughter can be divided into classifications.

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice and is of three kinds:
(a) Voluntary--upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion;

(b) Involuntary--in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection;

(c) Vehicular.
The punishment for manslaughter can vary greatly, including a possible misdemeanor conviction for certain kinds of vehicular manslaughter.

No matter the circumstances are surrounding your case is imperative that you seek the legal advice of a competent, experienced criminal defense attorney.
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