Homicide is one of the most serious crimes a person can commit. If someone deliberately killed another person and planned to do so in advance, they can face charges of murder in the first degree. Pennsylvania is a state that has the death penalty in place, which means if a person is found guilty and convicted of first degree murder, they can receive the death penalty in their sentence. Even if the individual does not get sentenced to death, they can face life in prison.
Anyone who is facing such serious charges needs to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on their side. As this is one of the gravest offenses, the best chance the individual has is a strong defense that can help to at least reduce the charges against them.
Facts About Murder in the First Degree in Pennsylvania
In order for a person to be charged and potentially convicted of murder in the first degree, they must have planned and intended on committing the homicide. This is what sets first degree murder apart from all other forms of homicide.
In the state of Pennsylvania, murder is described as being a type of deliberate killing of another person through the means of poison, waiting for a specific time or through generally any type of deliberate, premeditated and willful killing.
If someone is arrested and charged with murder in the first degree, the prosecution is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to kill another person. The following criteria must also be proven:
• The killing was done in a malicious manner
• The intention was to kill the other person, rather than merely injuring them
As first degree murder is generally the gravest of charges a person can receive, the penalties are just as serious. Someone who is convicted of this crime can receive the death penalty. However, at this point in time, Pennsylvania rarely uses this punishment, which means the individual can more likely face life in prison.
What a Person Should Do if Charged with First Degree Murder
A person who is charged with murder in the first degree in Pennsylvania should first avoid unnecessarily angering the police officer who arrests them as that can exacerbate the situation. They will likely be held in jail overnight. It’s important for someone in this scenario to avoid talking about the situation with the police. Even claiming innocence can work against them.
Generally speaking, a person who is facing any very serious criminal charge such as murder should refrain from speaking with the police or a prosecutor without their criminal defense attorney at their side. It’s important to keep in mind that anything said can be used against the individual.
If the police question the person, the individual should calmly refuse to answer any questions and state that they want to speak to an attorney.
What Can an Attorney Do?
Having a criminal defense attorney is absolutely mandatory for anyone who is charged as serious as murder in the first degree. There are many things a lawyer can do to help the individual’s case, including the following:
• Thoroughly reviewing all pieces of evidence in the case to determine whether it is sufficient for the charges
• Ensure that no evidence in the defendant’s favor is discredited
• Help their client in every way they can based on the specific circumstances surrounding the case
• Determine whether the evidence and potential witnesses can help to prove that the defendant did not kill the victim, which the prosecution is required beyond a reasonable doubt
• Determine whether there was malicious intent through evidence and potential witnesses, which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt
Overall, the criminal defense attorney will explore every aspect of the case and look into as much as possible to help support their client’s case. It is imperative to have legal representation if you are facing charges of murder in the first degree. Speak with an attorney immediately if you have been arrested on such charges.