Homicide is the unlawful killing of a human being, and is among the most serious crimes known to the law. The intent of the offender is the primary factor making a homicide more or less serious. A homicide case will result in intensive law enforcement investigation and heightened attempts to get a confession out of the suspect. Because these are often very emotional cases, and because the stakes are so high, law enforcement is less likely to cut corners, but may be more likely to make mistakes. Just like in every criminal case, a smart, experienced, and skillful defense attorney can often mean the difference between freedom and lengthy imprisonment – or, in the case of some homicides, the death penalty.
A person commits Murder when he intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual, or commits a dangerous act with the intent of causing serious bodily injury but that results in death, or when he commits a felony and does something dangerous while committing it or running from it, and an individual dies as a result. Murder is a first-degree felony that carries a penalty of 5-99 years, or life, in prison.
A number of factors can turn a murder into a Capital Murder, carrying a penalty of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under some technical circumstances, the State can charge a person with capital murder if the victim is a peace officer, a fireman, a prison employee, a child under 10 years of age, or a judicial officer. Also, a murder can be a capital murder if committed in the course of committing certain other specific felonies, if committed while attempting to escape from prison or while already in prison for murder, or if committed for pay or other remuneration, or if the person hires someone else to commit a murder. A capital murder case demands an extremely high degree of proficiency as a defense counsel.
A person commits Manslaughter when he recklessly causes the death of an individual. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, carrying a penalty of 2-20 years in prison.
Finally, a person commits Criminally Negligent Homicide when he causes the death of an individual by criminal negligence. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony, carrying a penalty of 6 months to 2 years in a state jail facility.
Assaults can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies. I focus on serious felony assault cases, which usually are charged as Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, a second-degree felony carrying a punishment range of 2-20 years in prison. Remember that using a deadly weapon includes merely threatening someone with it. This means that a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon can be proven even in cases where nobody is injured.
The defense of any homicide or felony assault requires rigorous investigation, and calls for experience and skill at cross-examination of law enforcement witnesses and very emotional witnesses. I lean forward on such cases, attempting to develop defenses such as self-defense, and do so as early as possible to potentially affect a grand jury’s decision whether to indict at all. Just because a case is high-profile does not mean that the State can get away with whatever it wants. The burden of proof remains on the State, and my client remains innocent until proven guilty, regardless of what local politicians and media might have to say.
If you or a family member have been arrested or charged with any homicide, assault, or any other violent offense, I can help you. Call me or email me directly from this page. Your initial consultation will be free of charge.