If you believe that facing murder charges is the worst situation you may ever deal with, you are essentially correct. All American states take a very harsh stance against violent crimes that result in the loss of another life. Regardless of your innocence, you should take an arrest on first-degree murder charges seriously and seek a solid defense as early as possible.

In the state of California, there exist statutes defining certain “special circumstances” that make first-degree murder charges even worse. If prosecutors can prove these circumstances, defendants may face the death penalty or a life imprisonment sentence. A few of these special circumstances include:

  • Intentionally killing another for financial gain
  • Previously convicted for first or second-degree murder
  • Taking another life or lives by way of destructive devices like bombs
  • Intentionally taking the life of a law enforcement officer
  • Killing a witness to prevent him or her from testifying about a crime
  • Killing in connection with a separate crime (during a crime, fleeing a crime, etc.)
  • Killing a firefighter that is engaged in his or her work duties

You may have noticed that intent is a large factor in establishing that special circumstances played a role in an alleged murder. Prosecutors in these cases must prove that you engaged in activity qualifying as one or more of these special circumstances. If you can prove that intent was not a factor in your case, then you have a chance of avoiding the harshest sentence (life in prison or the death penalty). 

Even though California has temporarily halted executions, you can still be sentenced to death if you’re convicted of murder. As you might expect, you will need an extremely strong legal advocate experienced in handling violent crimes to aid in your goals. Once you and your lawyer have found a way to rule out special circumstances, you can continue fighting for your freedom by working to overcome the murder charges altogether.