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Criminal Defense

Domestic Violence Homicides: Challenges and Legal Defense Strategies in Los Angeles County

By November 3, 2023May 19th, 2024No Comments
Police car parked in front of yellow line | Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer | Wegman & Levin

Crimes involving the loss of a person’s life are usually prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no way to bring someone back, and criminal statutes set forth severe penalties to reflect this unfortunate reality. Like most states, California imposes the most restrictive and lasting penalties on offenders proven guilty of homicide and manslaughter. A conviction of such an offense may lead to decades in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, and further limitations on the defendant’s freedom and future. If law enforcement in Los Angeles County has arrested you for an incident involving domestic violence-related homicide, it’s critical that you contact a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Facing such serious charges can be an overwhelming and stressful experience, and you need to rely on a trusted criminal defense lawyer to uphold your rights and advocate on your behalf. California has enacted some of the most comprehensive domestic violence legal protections in the country, and prosecutors tend to pursue these cases aggressively. This post will explore the current climate surrounding domestic violence homicide offenses and the legal defense strategies you and your attorney can use to protect your freedom and future.

California’s Focus on Domestic Violence Homicide

Before we get into the nuances of domestic violence homicide crimes, it’s important to recognize that California has focused on these incidents in recent years. In the fall of 2023, victims’ advocate groups brought this topic to national attention. According to their findings, each of the five homicide victims in California’s San Mateo County in 2023 were also victims of domestic violence. Many domestic violence survivor advocacy groups urge the aggressive prosecution of all domestic abuse crimes, as they believe that perpetrators who escape penalties will continue to escalate their acts of violence—to the point of murder, in some cases. With such a bright spotlight shining on domestic violence homicide cases, California law enforcement and prosecutors feel an increased responsibility to take action and investigate all allegations of domestic violence.

Understanding the Legal Definition of Homicide in California

Essentially, homicide refers to one person taking the life of another. Penal Code sec. 187 states, “Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” The statutes proceed to clarify that “malice may be express or implied.” Express malice occurs when “there is manifested a deliberate intention to unlawfully take away the life of a fellow creature,” while implied malice happens “when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.” Although many people may assume that the definition of homicide is clear and straightforward, prosecutors must prove several key elements in order to secure a conviction. Enlisting the services of a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer is the best way to push back against these charges and advocate for a reduced sentence or the dismissal of the charges.

Legal Defense Strategies Against Domestic Violence Homicide

While the California Penal Code does not contain a specific statute addressing domestic violence homicide, such cases can and do happen. Arguments between family members, spouses, dating partners, exes, and even roommates can turn heated, and it’s not uncommon for those involved to lose control and say things they don’t truly mean. For example, if you were arguing with a current or former intimate partner or close relative one moment and they attacked you or provoked you into shoving them back, their resulting injuries may have become lethal. The next thing you know, law enforcement officers are placing you under arrest for homicide, even though you had no intention of injuring the victim—let alone killing them. Once you’ve contacted a seasoned Los Angeles County criminal defense lawyer, you can start preparing the strongest legal defense strategy to combat these charges. Below are some of the most common and effective defense strategies when facing serious criminal charges in Southern California.

Acting in Self-Defense

If you have a legitimate concern for your life, the law allows you to defend yourself (and others) from imminent harm. For example, if your ex was screaming at you and moving to strike you or subject you to physical violence, you may have pushed them in an act of self-defense. Even if the action you took contributed to the other person’s death, your criminal defense lawyer can help you demonstrate that you harbored no malice, had no intention to kill them, and that you were only trying to save yourself from imminent physical danger. Moreover, if your spouse was about to harm your child or other family member, your action to stop the perpetrator could also constitute an act of defense of others.

The Loss of Life Was Accidental

In some cases, criminal defense lawyers are able to prove that the loss of life was accidental. Murder convictions require prosecutors to establish malice aforethought, and many incidents involving a loss of life happen unintentionally or accidentally. For instance, if your dating partner or spouse suffered a heart attack or fell down the stairs and passed away, law enforcement may attempt to use your documented history of domestic violence convictions to charge you with a related homicide offense. Your attorney will know how to fight such inaccurate accusations by proving that the death was accidental.

Challenging Civil Rights Violations During Your Arrest

Another tactic that your defense attorney may consider using is highlighting potential violations of your legal rights during the arrest or investigation proceedings. Officers are required to inform the accused of their Miranda rights at the time of their arrest and refrain from coercing the accused into making a confession. Your lawyer may discover that the police failed to follow proper protocols and procedures and use these violations to dispute the validity and legality of the charges.

The experienced and highly qualified criminal defense attorneys at Wegman & Levin are committed to defending your rights and protecting your freedom. If you are facing domestic violence homicide charges in Los Angeles County, call us right away at (818) 980-4000 to schedule a free consultation with a skilled and aggressive criminal defense lawyer.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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