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“I thought the Bulletproof Vest Would Work” is not a Good Defense

Friday night in Northern California 3 young men appear to have been extremely bored as one the men put on a “bullet proof vest” and another man shot him in the chest. Sadly the vest did not stop the bullet and the young man died. Authorities suggested that the man may have lived if emergency personnel were called earlier.

The question now is whether one or both of the young men will be charged with crimes and if so, what crime or crimes? This does not sound like a murder case to me but let’s take a closer look. First, murder is the unlawful killing of another with malice aforethought. This means the killing was not justified or excused. It also requires “malice” or a maligned heart. Malice is either the intent to kill or a reckless disregard for human life. Here we have some young men playing and the victim was shot while wearing a bullet proof vest. Simple logic indicates if one were intending to kill, they would have shot the victim without a vest.

But would these actions constitute a reckless disregard for human life? I think these facts could go either way. This activity was clearly reckless and did end up taking a human life, but we must analyze the conduct at the time it occurred. Here, the men were “playing” with a gun and a vest, seemingly hoping to “test out” the vest and not with the intent to kill.

Playing with a gun is certainly something one would consider reckless and pointing it another human and pulling the trigger intending to shoot them is highly reckless and might rise to the level of a reckless disregard for human life.

What about felony murder? Felony murder is a murder which is charged as a result of a death occurring during the commission of another felony. Here, there may be several felonies which may have occurred like the gun or the vest possession, theshooting of the gun in a reckless manner and possibly others. This might be the easiest theory for prosecution for murder based upon the facts at hand.

Lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter or others

Lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter seems to be highly applicable to these facts. It appears from a casual read of the facts that there was no intent to kill and the conduct, although reckless, was likely nothing more than stupidity. Thus, we might look for lesser included charges to be filed here. Reckless discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury seems appropriate. Manslaughter seems like it might fit the facts as well.

No matter what happens, this is a terrible tragedy. I am sorry for the loss of this young life and will follow the charges in this case very closely.

If you have questions about any gun related arrest, or any other criminal defense questions, call a lawyer who knows his way around the criminal justice system:

Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or

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