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California first-degree murder charge defense

On Behalf of | Mar 3, 2024 | Violent Crimes

First-degree murder is the most serious form of homicide in California. The state defines this crime as the intentional killing of another person. Building a defense against such a charge isn’t easy. However, there are some defenses a defendant can use against a charge of first-degree murder.


Murder is one of many violent crimes that can land a person in jail. Possible punishment can include life in prison with a chance of parole, life in prison with no chance of parole and the death penalty. Considering the serious consequences of committing murder, a defendant will desire to build the best defense possible.

Defending against first-degree murder

A common defense is for the defendant to claim the murder is justified. According to, justifiable homicide is when a person commits murder without evil or criminal intent.

For example, self-defense is often used as a defense against first-degree murder. Perhaps a person kills someone because that person is trying to kill them or cause them serious harm. The defense of others is another common justification for first-degree murder. An example is if a person is trying to kill someone’s children, and the parent commits murder to save the children.

The threat of death or serious injury must have been obvious. If the threat was only verbal, that doesn’t justify first-degree murder. And just because a defendant claims a murder is justified doesn’t mean the courts will automatically believe the claim.

It’s still necessary to prove that what the defendant says is true. In some cases, the state will require that the prosecution prove that the murder wasn’t justified. In other cases, the state will require the defendant to have solid evidence that backs up their claim.

The importance of a solid defense

In addition to self-defense and claiming justifiable homicide, there are a few other defenses against a first-degree murder charge. Claiming insanity or mistaken identity are examples of possible defenses. However, these are less common.

No matter the defense used, it is critical to build a good case that has strong evidence. The idea is to prove that there was justification or that the person was not responsible for their actions.