The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

February 2013 Archives

First Degree Murder and Second Degree, What's the Difference?

In California, like in most states, there is first degree murder and second degree murder. While they both involve an intentional killing, one is more serious than the other, especially when it comes to sentencing.

To put it in context, California groups all crimes that involve taking a human life under the title of homicide.

Within that category is both manslaughter and murder, which can both be subdivided into several categories. Focusing on murder, the difference between first and second degree rests primarily on one thing: intent.

Thank Gideon for Your Right to an Attorney

Whether it's from personal experience or too many reruns of "Law and Order," most people know that you have the right to an attorney in a criminal trial. But Gideon often doesn't get the credit for securing that right for you.

By Gideon, we mean Clarence Earl Gideon -- the man behind Gideon v. Wainwright, a Supreme Court case that marks its 50th anniversary next month.

You may never have heard of the case, but that doesn't make it any less important. Not only did it ensure your right to an attorney, it defined what that means.

Defining Theft and Other Property Crimes

California's criminal code is long and complicated, with significant sections dedicated to property crimes.

Most of these offenses are lumped under "theft," but actually, there's no such offense as plain-old "theft" in the California Penal Code. Theft is the category name for property crimes, and it contains a list of offenses.

The legal differences between theft crimes are important because they affect how serious the sentence for each crime can be. So, what are the differences?

You Have the Right to an Attorney, but What Does That Mean?

If you've been accused of a crime, you know you have a right to an attorney. That's all well and good, but what exactly do you get according to this right?

The Sixth Amendment, which provides the right to counsel, doesn't really go into detail about what you get as part of your legal representation. But years of judicial history have clarified what this right entails if find yourself on trial.

What's that you say? You haven't read the dry and dusty legal casebooks that contain these interpretations? We wouldn't expect it, so here's your cheat sheet.