Criminal Homicide Offenses
It is no surprise that murder and other offenses similar to murder are considered very serious offenses in Pennsylvania. In general, if you knowingly, intentionally, negligently, or recklessly cause the death of someone else, you can be found guilty of criminal homicide. Pennsylvania law further breaks up criminal homicide into separate criminal offenses, such as murder and voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. In other words, not only can you be charged with criminal homicide, but you can also face a more specific charge of murder. The offense with which you are ultimately charged depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Murder Offenses in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, criminal homicide is considered first degree murder if you intentionally kill someone. You can intentionally kill someone by poisoning them or by lying in wait. Lying in wait is considered evidence that the killing was done maliciously. If the killing was premeditated and you did so willfully and deliberately, the killing is also considered intentional. In other words, if you thought out a plan to kill someone, you can be charged with first degree murder. First degree murder is probably the most serious crime you can commit in Pennsylvania as a conviction can result in death or a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.
Second degree murder happens if someone dies while you are in the course of committing another felony offense, no matter whether you are actually engaged in the offense or are acted an accomplice. Felony offenses for purposes of second degree murder include rape, IDSI, robbery, burglary, arson, or kidnapping. A second degree murder conviction is punishable by life in prison without parole.
Finally, any other kind of murder is considered third degree murder. Third degree murder is considered a third degree felony where a conviction can result in up to twenty years in jail.
Criminal homicide is considered voluntary manslaughter if you kill someone without legal justification, and if at the time of the killing, you acted under the heat of passion because you were provoked by either the person killed or by someone you meant to kill. In the latter instance, the person who you actually kill was killed either accidentally or negligently. Voluntary manslaughter is also committed if you knowingly or intentionally kill someone believing that your act is justified when in actuality your belief is unreasonable. An example of voluntary manslaughter is shooting and killing someone because the actions of that person provoked you to the point that you became so enraged that you suddenly pulled your gun out and shot them. Voluntary manslaughter is considered a first degree felony where a conviction can result in up to twenty years in jail.
You can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if during the course of committing an illegal act in a grossly negligent or reckless manner, the act results in the death of another. Involuntary manslaughter can even occur if while performing a legal act in a grossly negligent or reckless manner, you cause the death of another. If you drive your car while under the influence of alcohol and you cause an accident which results the death of another, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter because the death was the direct result of your illegal act that was committed in a grossly negligent or reckless manner. Involuntary manslaughter is considered a first degree misdemeanor where a conviction can result in up to five years in jail.
Contact an experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney today to help you fight your criminal homicide charge!
The law that penalizes acts of criminal homicide can be both confusing and complex. Accordingly, if you have been arrested and charged with criminal homicide, and/or a murder or manslaughter offense in Pennsylvania, it is imperative that you speak and consult with a knowledgeable and seasoned Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney right away. The attorneys at Coover & Scheidemann have successfully helped other people who have faced similar serious criminal homicide charges like yours, and they can review the facts and evidence in your case, and help you determine the best strategy for fighting your criminal homicide charge.