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 a Philadelphia homicide attorney immediately. Contact the Law Offices of Lloyd Long online, or by calling (215) 525-6818, for a free legal consultation. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Stages of a Murder Trial in PA
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.
Penalties for Homicide in PA
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:
- First Degree Murder – In Pennsylvania,
first degreemurder is any murder where the defendant purposely intended to cause the death of another person. First degreemurder includes premeditated murder. A conviction of first degreemurder can bring the death penalty or a penalty of life imprisonment. Though there is currently a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania, it is uncertain whether the moratorium will remain in place.
- Second Degree Murder –
Second degreemurder, 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 degreemurder is up to life imprisonment.
- Third Degree Murder –
Third degreemurder is any other murder not under first or second degreemurder. Third degree cannot include instances of a specific intent to kill an individual. A conviction for third degreemurder carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
- Voluntary Manslaughter – 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 degreemurder, voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
- Involuntary Manslaughter – 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.
Defenses to Murder and Manslaughter
There are a few defenses that a defendant can use as a defense 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
fromfirst-degree murder to a lower degree.
- Other potential defenses include insanity, duress, self-defense, and an accidental killing without any criminal intent while conducting
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 homicides 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:
- 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)
Philadelphia Homicide Defense Attorneys Can Help
Philadelphia manslaughter lawyer Lloyd Long can build a defense team comprised of investigators and scientific experts specially tailored for each case. This approach allows us to simultaneously build a strong defense and a strong mitigation. As evidenced by our winning track record, our aggressive, multi-pronged approach to defending homicide cases works.
If you or a loved one is facing homicide charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding area, you can’t afford to delay a single moment to start building your case. For a free legal consultation, contact our law offices immediately at (215) 525-6818.