Sacramento Defense Lawyer - Law Offices of Richard Dudek

Sacramento Defense Lawyer Discusses First-Degree & Second-Degree Charges in California

Specific categorization of crimes allows the Court to give detailed sentences that match the severity of the crime. In California, felony crimes have varying degrees. For example, if there was only one degree of murder, then anyone who killed another person would probably spend the rest of his or her life in jail.

There would be no room to consider the exact details of the crime such as it occurring in the heat of an argument or as another consequence of an action not intended to actually kill the person. The severity of punishments are all circumstantial. If you have been charged of a first-degree or second-degree crime, contact a Sacramento defense lawyer immediately for legal assistance.

The court takes several aspects of a crime into consideration when determining the classification of the transgression. One important consideration is aggravating or mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances are elements of the crime that do not necessarily excuse the crime but that are considered in order to fairly judge the severity, and degree, of a crime. Crimes that are committed in the “heat of passion” are an example of the consideration of mitigating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances are elements of the crime that actually increase its severity – such as killing someone based on their sexual orientation.

Often, the first degree of a crime has a very detailed description and whatever crimes that are of the same nature but do not fit the requirements for the first degree are considered second degree. Crimes that are considered to be of the first degree are the most severe. These crimes typically involve planning, intending, or involving of other people. First degree crimes are almost always felonies. Second degree crimes vary – some are felonies and some are wobblers, which means they can be either felonies or misdemeanors depending on the court’s discretion. If you have been charged with a second-degree crime, call a skilled Sacramento defense lawyer immediately who can help mitigate the punishment.

The differences in degrees of murder and burglary are outlined below to show how these degrees can be defined in different crimes. Please keep in mind these are just general guidelines but are never intended to be legal advice. Always consult with an experienced and licensed Sacramento defense lawyer as it pertains to your case.

First Degree Murder

First degree murder is defined as intentional, premeditated killing. This means that the individual considered his or her actions and their consequences and still decided to take action to take another person’s life. This doesn’t mean that a person has to have written out a plan and thought about killing his victim for a long period of time. A purposeful decision to kill another person can be made relatively quickly. Other ways in which the killing of another person can be considered murder in the first degree includes killing another person through:

  • Torture
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Poison
  • Lying in wait

Penalties for first degree murder may include twenty-five years to life in prison. If the murder was a hate crime, this aggravating factor leads to a sentence of life in prison without parole. First-degree murder is a serious crime and requires the legal assistance of an experienced Sacramento defense lawyer.

Second Degree Murder

Second degree murder is purposeful killing without planning ahead or that occurs due to reckless behavior. This is different from first degree murder as it does not require that the individual was intending to kill the victim before the incident occurred. The most common forms of second degree murder occur as a result of:

  • Impulsive behavior without premeditation
  • Actions only intended to cause great harm, not death
  • Reckless behavior executed without concern for human life

Since second degree murder is a sort of catch-all for all murders that are not considered first degree, the potential penalties vary widely which is why having a Sacramento defense lawyer by your side is the best thing you can do for your situation. Generally, a conviction of second degree murder results in a sentence of 15 years to life. Some aggravating factors that lead to longer sentences include:

  • Previous murder convictions
  • Shooting a firearm out of a moving vehicle with the intent to cause injury
  • If the victim is a peace officer

Different Degrees of Burglary

For burglary, the major difference between first and second degree is where the burglary occurs. If the burglary occurred in an inhabited residence, it is of the first degree. All other burglary locations are of the second degree. An inhabited residence includes:

  • An inhabited house
  • A room within an inhabited house
  • An inhabited boat
  • An inhabited floating home
  • An inhabited trailer coach
  • An inhabited portion of any kind of building
  • An inhabited hotel room

“Inhabited” indicates that someone is currently living or using the space, not that someone else was present at the time. First degree burglary is always a felony in California and is punishable by up to six years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Second degree burglary is what is called a “wobbler” and can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Felony second degree burglary can include penalties of up to three years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Whatever situation you are in or crime you have done, it’s imperative to seek legal representation from an experienced Sacramento defense lawyer who understands the legal system and California courts.

Whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, having an experienced, professional and trusted Sacramento defense lawyer by your side can make all the difference for your future. The Law Offices of Richard Dudek has experience handling all sorts of criminal cases throughout Sacramento and Northern California. Give us a call at (916) 441 – 3500 for a legal consultation.


The Law Offices of Richard Dudek offers comprehensive criminal defense from the beginning of your case through the final appeal. Let our criminal lawyer in Sacramento defend your rights. Contact us online or by telephone at (916) 444-7595 to arrange a personal consultation with Richard Dudek today.

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