Fighting Murder Charges in Pennsylvania

A murder conviction is one of the most serious charges that can be brought against an individual within the field of criminal law. The penalties for a murder conviction vary, depending upon the specifics of the case, but in nearly all instances, murder is a felony and a conviction will involve a lengthy prison sentence.

If you face murder charges in Pennsylvania, it’s important to understand what you’re up against and how an attorney can provide you with legal assistance. For more information about what constitutes murder and the penalties for murder in the state of Pennsylvania, refer to the following.

What constitutes murder?

Many people assume the legal term and act of “murder” describes every act of taking another individual’s life. In the eyes of the law, though, the definition of “murder” is much more specific.  There are actually three different types of murder and two different types of manslaughter under Pennsylvania law.

First-degree murder, for example, requires that the prosecutor establish the presence of malice, or the specific intent to kill. Evidence used to establish the presence of malice, the intent to kill and pre-meditated murder include the consideration of the defendant’s actions and the use of a deadly weapon.

Second-degree murder is another type of murder charge in Pennsylvania and requires the presence of malice and that the defendant had a specific intent to kill. Unlike first-degree murder, though, a defendant may be charged with second-degree murder if he or she intended to participate in actions that led to a person’s death, even if killing a person was not a direct intention.

According to Pennsylvania law Title 18 – Crimes and Offenses, Section 2502 (c), all other types of murder shall be considered murder of the third degree. A defendant may be found guilty of murder even if he or she did not have the intent to kill but did have the intent to perform unlawful acts that resulted in the death of a person, such as shooting a person.

Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are the two final types of homicide that are considered under Pennsylvania law. The former refers to the killing of another person by an individual who, at the time of the killing, “is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation,” according to Pennsylvania Constitutional Statute 2503 (a). The latter, involuntary manslaughter, occurs when a person, through the performance of an unlawful act or negligent behavior, causes the death of another person.

Penalties for a Murder Conviction

The penalties for a murder conviction vary greatly, depending upon the degree or type of murder committed. A first-degree murder charge is the most serious conviction and can result in a sentence of capital punishment (which is reserved in Pennsylvania only for those convicted of first-degree murder or a capital homicide) or life imprisonment. If a person is convicted of second-degree murder in Pennsylvania, he or she will face life imprisonment. The penalty for third-degree murder is typically a prison sentence of up to 20 years, as is the penalty for voluntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter typically holds a penalty of up to five years in prison.

How an Attorney Can Help

If you have been charged with murder in the state of Pennsylvania, it is extremely important that you seek legal representation. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options in building your defense.

And in Pennsylvania, the right attorney matters. Under Pennsylvania Code Rule 801, only qualified attorneys may represent individuals in death penalty cases. Fortunately, our team has lawyers who are qualified through both education and experience, and who are prepared to advocate on your behalf in a death penalty case.