Homicide (Title 18, Chapter 25 http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/LI/consCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=25), or killing another person, is a crime in Pennsylvania in most circumstances if there is not a defense to the act. Homicide is generally divided into two categories: murder and manslaughter. Each crime is defined differently and comes with different penalties.
If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter, call a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney right away. These are serious accusations, and you need to develop a strong defense to avoid facing the full extent of punishment that the law allows for these crimes.
First degree murder in Pennsylvania occurs when someone commits a premeditated and illegal killing of another person, with an express showing of malice or an intent to do an illegal act or cause harm. These elements can be proven by looking at the planning that went into the crime, the weapon used, and other surrounding circumstances. In Pennsylvania, first degree murder is punishable by the death penalty or by life imprisonment.
Second degree murder is defined as when a murder occurs in the commission of a felony. Under this law, intent to kill can be inferred by the criminal felonious activity, even if the defendant did not necessarily mean to kill someone while committing a felony. A good defense against second degree murder is showing that you did not not intend to commit the felony, meaning that you would not also be liable for the murder. If you are convicted of second degree murder, you face mandatory life in prison.
Third degree murder is defined as murder that was not done intentionally and did not occur while committing a felony. However, the killing must still have been done with malice. An example is if you sell someone an illegal substance and the person dies from taking the substance. It is punishable by up to 40 years in jail.
This crime occurs when someone kills another person “in the heat of passion” or under an unreasonable belief of danger to yourself. Showing that you were truly acting in reasonable self defense is a good way to fight the charges of voluntary manslaughter. Otherwise, you face a first degree felony charge and up to twenty years in jail.
Involuntary manslaughter can happen if three circumstances are met: 1) someone was killed as a result of an act of the defendant; 2) the act was inherently dangerous or done recklessly; and 3) the defendant knew or should have known that the act could cause harm to others. It is punishable by a first degree misdemeanor, or up to five years in jail. But, if the victim was under the age of 12 and in the care of the person who caused their death, it is a second degree felony.
If you have been charged with any kind of homicide in Pennsylvania, call one of our experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers today.