If there are “Special Circumstances,” commonly referred to as “Enhancements,” such as murder of a police officer, murder for hire or murder of a minor child under age six, this is the highest level of a homicide. The punishment is life without any possibility of parole.
- Second-degree criminal homicide (murder): This is charged as a crime when the defendant kills a person on the spur of the moment or it is done in the “heat of passion” and without any prior premeditation, planning or deliberation. Common situations for this offense may include but are not limited to reckless driving that results in the death of another, shooting a weapon without intent to kill and/or using any deadly weapon in a fight without a legal defense that results in a homicide. The punishment for second-degree murder is 15 years to life.
- Voluntary manslaughter: Here, the prosecution seeks to prove the defendant killed another person, but there is adequate provocation. The “heat of passion” is often provoked by rage, anger, terror and/or fear. Provocation must be the type that a reasonable person in the passion of the moment would lose self-control and act on impulse, without reflection.
- Voluntary manslaughter: This is the killing of another human being in the “sudden heat of passion, with sufficient and legally adequate provocation.” The punishment for this ranges from three to 11 years in prison.
- Involuntary manslaughter: If there is willful and wanton carelessness, recklessness or gross negligence that results in a killing, it is unintentional as such. Examples of this criminal homicide can take place in the handling of firearms or driving of a motor vehicle and are generally referred to as criminal negligence. The punishment for involuntary manslaughter is imprisonment for two to four years.
If there is a misdemeanor and not a felony crime being committed and a death occurs, this is misdemeanor manslaughter. The punishment for this crime is generally up to one year in the San Diego County Jail.