Practically speaking, murder is the most serious crime on the books in Pennsylvania. Not all killing is murder, and not all murder is equally serious under the law. But a charge of murder in this state carries severe penalties, from 40 years in prison to death.
If you are facing murder charges in the Pennsylvania area, call Brian Manchester, an experienced murder defense attorney in Pennsylvania. Call today. It is important to start working on your defense right away.
Under Pennsylvania law, any intentional, knowing, reckless or negligent killing of another person is considered criminal homicide. There are a number of types of homicide, of which murder is one. Other types include manslaughter, vehicular homicide, assisted suicide, and intentional unlawful delivery of a deadly controlled substance. Most of these crimes are felonies punishable by substantial prison sentences. Murder carries the stiffest penalties, including death.
In order to win a murder conviction, prosecutors must prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt: first, that a defendant killed another person and second, that the defendant did so with malicious intent, also known as a guilty state of mind. All criminal convictions require proof of a guilty mind, but this proof is more important in murder cases than in any other area of law. To a large degree, the level of malicious intent displayed in a murder determines the severity of the charges and punishment.
First-degree murder is the most serious kind of homicide. To win a conviction on this charge, prosecutors must prove a defendant killed another person intentionally. The intent required to classify a homicide as first-degree murder is higher than simple malicious intent: Prosecutors must prove a defendant acted with specific intent to kill. In other words, a homicide resulting from an attempt to merely injure someone does not count. First-degree murder is a premeditated crime, meaning prosecutors must prove a defendant was able to think about the crime beforehand and had a chance to reconsider before acting. First-degree murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment, though Pennsylvania has used the death penalty just three times since 1976.
Second-Degree Murder: Felony Murder
Second-degree murder in Pennsylvania covers any homicide that occurs during the commission of a violent felony. This is known as the felony murder rule. It applies to everyone involved in the underlying felony, regardless of who commits the killing. For example, the getaway driver who waits outside while his compatriots rob a bank can be held responsible for murder should one of them kill someone inside the bank. Pennsylvania enforces this rule on the ground that a defendant acts with malicious intent to commit a violent felony; that intent is viewed as enough to support a murder charge. The felonies included in the rule are robbery, rape, sexual assault, arson, burglary and kidnapping . Second-degree murder is punishable by a life sentence.
Third-degree murder includes all murders not covered by the other two categories. These are homicides that are committed with malice but without specific intent to kill and without the commission of other violent felonies. Murder in the third degree is punishable by as many as 40 years in prison.
Murder Of Police: A Special Cas
Pennsylvania law considers murder of law enforcement officers a special type of murder. Intentionally killing a law enforcement officer in the line of duty is punishable by death or life in prison. Engaging in a violent felony during which a police officer dies is punishable by life in prison.
If you or a loved one are in the Pennsylvania area and have been charged with murder, call Brian Manchester, an experienced murder defense lawyer. He can help you build the defense you need today.