suge knight, murder laws in CaliforniaAttempted murder in CA could be the charge in the recent club shooting in Los Angeles.  By now most persons have heard of the disturbing story of multiple persons being shot in a nightclub in Los Angeles including infamous rap mogul, Suge Knight.  It appears from stories that the shooters intent was to harm Chris Brown and/or Justin Bieber.   Others claim that Suge Knight was the intended target. Whoever, was the target, under California law, the shooter, if caught and convicted, could be facing life in prison.

Definition of Attempted Murder Under California Law

In a situation where someone recklessly open fires in a nightclub, whether or not they actually hit and/or kill another person, such conduct can expose a person to charges of attempted murder in California.   In order for a prosecutor to successfully prove that a person is guilty of attempted murder beyond a reasonable doubt, the must prove (2) that a person took a direct step towards the killing of another person; and (b) the alleged suspect intended to kill that person.     Clearly, shooting into a crowded nightclub is a “direct step” towards killing another person.  However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will most likely argue that there was no intent to kill another but rather just to injure that person.   Such argument seems like it would be easy to show at trial but if the shooting pattern is not done in a matter to avoid vital organs such as the chest or head, it may be hard to make such an argument.

However, if a person is shooting to defend themselves it may be a complete defense to an attempted murder charge or an imperfect defense to an attempted murder case in California.  In California, whether you are facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon, murder or attempted murder, a seasoned criminal defense lawyer may be able to avoid a conviction using the lawful defense that a person may use force that is reasonable to defend themselves against an attack.      In many cases,  force may be used  even if  a person can escape the threat by leaving or running away.       It is also lawful to pursue the person attacking another until the threat of danger has passed.   Such defense is often successful when a defendant is defending their home.

A criminal attorney may be able to have serious felony charges reduced by making an “imperfect self-defense” argument.   Imperfect self-defense occurs when a defendant can show:  1.  actual belief that the person or someone else was in imminent danger of great bodily harm including death; 2. The suspect had an honest belief that deadly force was necessary to defend themselves or others; and 3.  either of the two beliefs was unreasonable.  If a person is arrested of a violent crime, they should always consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine if a self-defense or imperfect self-defense is possible to have charges dismissed or significantly reduced to avoid prison.

Second Degree Murder in CA

In California, a person may be convicted of second degree murder for shooting a gun into a crowded nightclub such as the Suge Knight case as long as the prosecutor can show the act was deliberate meaning the person intended to fire the weapon with a reckless disregard for the consequences including the killing of another person which amounts to “malice” a mental state that is required to be guilty of such a crime.

Pursuant to California Penal Code section 190, a person found guilty of second degree murder is subject to a state prison sentence of 15 years to life in prison.  There are many instance where a fight leads to the death of another person and defendant with no prior record is facing criminal charges of murder.  Under such circumstances, it is always advisable to consult a criminal defense attorney who can identify all possible defenses to such a tragic event including defenses that may lead to the dismissal of criminal charges or to the reduction of serious felony charges to a misdemeanor or other charge where prison can be avoided.