Philadelphia Homicide + Murder Defense Lawyer
Homicide-related crimes are considered to be some of the most heinous offenses with which a person can be charged. The death of another person will always be met with swift action by the police and prosecutors. However, not every homicide crime is the same. A crime like murder will be punished more harshly than a lesser offense like manslaughter because of the defendant’s intent. You will need an experienced homicide defense attorney to help you fight or reduce your charges.
Pennsylvania homicide cases are far more complex than other types of criminal cases. Murder charges involve a variety of elements that only an effective, experienced, and extremely knowledgeable attorney can adequately manage. Inexperienced attorneys will not fare well against the aggressive homicide units in the various district attorneys’ offices in the Commonwealth. If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter in Philadelphia, you need a serious, aggressive defense attorney to fight in your corner.
If you have been arrested for manslaughter or murder, or if a family member is facing homicide charges or an upcoming trial, it is imperative that you speak with our Philadelphia defense attorneys immediately. Contact the Law Offices of Lloyd Long online or by calling (215) 302-0171, for a free legal consultation. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Pre-Trial Phase of a Murder Trial in Philadelphia
The criminal justice process begins when you are arrested by law enforcement. There are numerous different steps to get through before ever reaching your trial. One crucial step in your case will be your preliminary hearing. Except for summary offenses, all criminal defendants usually must go through a preliminary hearing before getting to their trial.
At your preliminary hearing, the prosecutor must demonstrate to the court that there is sufficient evidence to justify a trial. If the prosecutor cannot show that enough evidence exists to warrant prosecution, your case could be dismissed. This process prevents unnecessary trials for cases where little evidence exists to prove guilt.
The preliminary hearing may also provide an advantageous opportunity for defendants. This hearing allows defendants to get a sneak peek of the prosecutor’s evidence and the strategy they plan to use at the trial. Depending on the outcome of your preliminary hearing, you may adjust your defense strategy accordingly.
A preliminary hearing is also a good time to begin plea bargaining negotiations. Read on to learn more about plea bargains and negotiating plea deals. Our Philadelphia murder defense lawyers can help you fight your charges to the fullest extent possible or negotiate a favorable deal to help you avoid a more serious penalty.
Stages of a Murder Trial in Philadelphia
The most important factor to recognize when you are charged with homicide is that your very life is on the line. In the case of murder in the first degree in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth can seek either life in prison or the death penalty.
Pennsylvania murder trials are broken up into two parts:
- Trial Phase – At trial, the prosecution attempts to prove to the jury that the defendant committed the crime that he or she is being charged with. If the defendant is found guilty, the proceedings then move to the penalty phase.
- Penalty Phase – At the penalty phase, the government presents “aggravating” evidence to persuade the jury to impose the death penalty. The defense, on the other hand, presents “mitigating” evidence to persuade the jury to spare the defendant’s life.
The process the defense team goes through in collecting helpful facts about the accused is referred to as “mitigation.” While a defendant’s murder case may never reach the penalty phase, it is still important to build a robust mitigation defense from the very beginning. A proper mitigation defense takes several months to prepare and can involve collecting all manner of data and information about the defendant’s life and upbringing.
Aggravating factors, or details and facts that cast you in a negative light, will make your case harder to defend. The prosecutor may use aggravating factors to persuade a jury to impose the death penalty in your case. These factors can include the violent nature of the alleged crime and a lack of remorse from the defendant. Sympathetic victims may also provide aggravating factors. For example, if the victim was a child, elderly, or pregnant, jurors may be more outraged and more likely to convict and impose capital punishment.
Our skilled and experienced Philadelphia homicide defense attorneys can help you use any mitigating factors to your benefit and downplay any aggravating circumstances. Call our offices today to get help from experienced lawyers who will fight for your best interests.
Penalties for Homicide in Philadelphia
The penalties for homicide in Pennsylvania depend on the type of crime the defendant is being charged with. Depending on the offense, the defendant may stand charged with a misdemeanor or felony. However, homicide charges are generally felonies. Philadelphia homicide charges and penalties include the following:
In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder is any murder where the defendant purposely intended to cause the death of another person. First-degree murder includes premeditated murder. A conviction of first-degree murder can bring the death penalty or a penalty of life imprisonment. Though there is currently a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania, it is uncertain whether the moratorium will remain in place. However, this moratorium does not prevent prosecutors from seeking the death penalty.
Second-degree murder, also known as felony murder, happens when a defendant kills another person during the commission of a violent felony, including arson, rape, robbery, and kidnapping. The penalty for second-degree murder is up to life imprisonment.
Third-degree murder is any other murder not under first or second-degree murder. Third-degree cannot include instances of a specific intent to kill an individual. A conviction for third-degree murder carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Voluntary manslaughter is where a defendant had no malicious intent to kill but purposely acted in a way that caused the death of another person. Like third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
Involuntary manslaughter covers killings that result from reckless or grossly negligent actions. These actions do not have to be illegal. Involuntary manslaughter carries a penalty of up to five years of imprisonment.
The nature of these homicide charges is different and requires different defense tactics. Some charges, like manslaughter, are not usually imposed by prosecutors. Instead, these charges tend to result from plea bargains where the defendant was originally charged with a more severe offense. Our Philadelphia homicide defense lawyers can help you fight your charges at trial or negotiate a favorable plea bargain, so you avoid a long prison term or the death penalty.
Defenses to Philadelphia Murder or Manslaughter Charges
As said before, different homicide charges will require different tactics and strategies from your defense team. There are a few defenses that a defendant can use in a homicide trial in Pennsylvania. They include the following:
- Diminished capacity, or lacking the mental capacity required to form a specific intent to kill. This defense does not relieve a defendant of criminal liability completely.
- Voluntary intoxication, which can be used to reduce a charge from first-degree murder to a lower degree.
- Other potential defenses include insanity, duress, self-defense, and an accidental killing without any criminal intent while conducting lawful activity.
People often believe the best way to defend yourself against any criminal charges, including homicide and murder, is to prove that you did not commit the crime. While having an alibi is an excellent defense, it is not the only defense. It is not uncommon to have defendants who did, in fact, commit the killing they are charged with. However, they may have done so under conditions that do not amount to a crime or amount to a lesser crime.
Many homicide charges can be defended by challenging the alleged intent of the defendant. For example, to be convicted of murder, the defendant must have purposefully intended to kill the victim. If the victim was killed as a result of an accident, you can defend against your murder charges. It is not always possible to walk away from your homicide trial without convictions. However, our Philadelphia homicide defense lawyers can work to reduce your charges and sentences.
Plea Bargains for Homicide Charges in Philadelphia
As mentioned, many homicide charges can be reduced through plea bargaining. A plea bargain sometimes called a plea deal or plea agreement is when your prosecutor agrees to reduce your charges or recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for your guilty plea. You will effectively waive your right to a trial when you accept a plea offer.
The nature of your plea bargain will depend significantly on the mitigating and aggravating circumstances surrounding your case. When there are more mitigating factors, the prosecutor may be more willing to reduce your charges and avoid a lengthy trial. If there are more aggravating factors, the prosecutor may be more reluctant to offer a plea deal at all.
For example, a prosecutor may be more willing to extend a plea offer to a defendant who had been subjected to long-term domestic violence at the hands of the murder victim. However, prosecutors will be less receptive to a defendant who is charged with a gang-related revenge killing.
Remember, plea bargains are not always guaranteed. You may be open to the idea of plea negotiations, but if your prosecutor refuses to extend a plea offer, you have no choice but to go to trial. Also, even if we can reach a plea agreement with prosecutors, the judge may have to approve the deal. This is often the case when charges are not reduced, but the prosecutor agrees to recommend a lighter sentence. Ultimately, the judge has the final say on your sentence, not prosecutors.
If you have been charged with a homicide offense, a plea bargain may be a good choice for your case. You can discuss possible plea negotiation outcomes with our experienced team of Philadelphia homicide defense attorneys.
How Our Team of Experienced Philadelphia Attorneys Can Help Your Homicide Case
Our skill and efficacy are clear from our case results, as we have never had a client sit on death row. Our highly experienced Philadelphia murder defense lawyers have handled dozens of homicide trials and offer a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas of criminal forensics, ballistic evidence, statement coercion, and misidentification. We represent defendants who have been charged with a wide array of criminal homicide offenses in the Philadelphia area, including the following:
- First Degree Murder Charges – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2502(a)
- Second Degree Murder Charges – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2502(b)
- Third Degree Murder Charges – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2502(c)
- Voluntary Manslaughter Charges – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2503(a)
- Involuntary Manslaughter Charges – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2504(a)
- First Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer (Police Officer) – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2507(a)
- Second Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2507(b)
- First Degree Manslaughter of Law Enforcement Officer – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2507(c)
- Second Degree Manslaughter of a Law Enforcement Officer – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2507(d)
- Causing Suicide as Criminal Homicide – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2505(a)
- Aiding or Soliciting Suicide – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2505(b)
- Drug Delivery Resulting in Death – 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2506(a)
If You Were Charged, Our Philadelphia Homicide Defense Attorneys Can Help
If you or a loved one is facing homicide charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding area, you cannot afford to delay a single moment to start building your case. For a free legal consultation, call our Philadelphia defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long immediately at (215) 302-0171.