Murder Criminal Defense Lawyers
Murder is one of the most serious crimes we have in our society, so it makes sense that the laws surrounding these acts are equally complex. While it may be oversimplifying matters to state that no two murders are the same, each incident of one human being killing another has unique characteristics. For that reason, there are several classifications under the primary heading of murder with punishments appropriate to each of those different classes.
First Degree Murder
Although many states have several different classifications, every state has the subcategories of first and second degree murder. First degree murder is the type of killing that most people think of, when the subject of murder is discussed. It involves the intentional killing of another person and requires that the murder was planned in advance with malice aforethought. Since premeditation is involved in this form of murder, the law also requires that the individual committing the crime have a clear, rational mind.
The element of premeditation in first degree murder means that you knew you would kill this individual, before you committed the act. For instance, maybe you first had the thought, while talking to him or her on the telephone. Similarly, you may have known for many weeks or months that you would kill this person. As long as it can be shown that the murder was the intended result, you can be said to have premeditated the crime.
Motive is also a consideration in proving first degree murder and may help in proving the element of premeditation as well. For example, you may have gone into business with a partner. Now that the business is a success, you may want to kill your partner and take sole ownership of the business. This would be your motive for murder, while also establishing your intent to commit the act of murder in advance.
Second Degree Murder
This crime carries most of the elements of first degree murder, except that there is no premeditation. The offender must still be aware of his actions and must have the intention of killing the victim, but will not have planned the crime in advance. This is commonly referred to as a crime of passion, because second degree murder is often characterized by extreme emotional states. Perhaps you walked in on your spouse in the midst of having an affair. By reaching for a gun and shooting your spouse, you have intentionally murdered him or her, though there was no premeditation.
This crime involves the murder of an individual, while another felony crime is in progress. For instance, you may be robbing a jewelry store at gunpoint, when the store clerk reaches for the phone or an alarm. When you fire your weapon and kill the clerk, you have committed felony murder. In that same situation, suppose you were one person in a group of robbers, where you were working together as a team. The murder of that store clerk would allow the courts to charge everyone involved in the crime with the felony murder, even though you were the only one directly responsible for the death.
Since the death penalty was abolished in New York in 2007, the punishment for first degree murder is imprisonment for a term of 20 to 25 years, though courts may also impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Second degree murder, which also includes felony murder, is considered a slightly less serious crime and therefore carries a lighter sentence. If convicted of second degree murder, you may expect to serve a sentence of 15 to 25 years.
However, New York state law establishes that the killing of an individual under the age of 14, while also committing sexual assault or rape against that same person, should carry a stiffer penalty. If convicted of second degree murder under these circumstances, you may receive a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
As the harsh penalties listed her indicate, any charge of murder is a serious matter and one you should not attempt to handle alone. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can provide the best chances for you to defend yourself and help you protect your rights, throughout the process. The sooner you involve a legal advocate, the more likely your case will have a favorable outcome