Homicide Attorneys in Philadelphia
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Murder and attempted murder are some of the most common charges in Philadelphia criminal cases, due to the fact that Philadelphia has one of the highest murder rates in the country.
Contact us online or call (215) 515-0042 to get started on your case.
First-Degree Murder Defined
Pennsylvania criminal law defines first-degree murder as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated. The penalty for first-degree murder is either life in prison without parole or death.
First-Degree Murder Example
A Philadelphia resident is charged with first-degree murder after a shooting in West Philly. The victim was shot in the chest during what appeared to a drive-by shooting. The defendant is the alleged shooter. The prosecution alleges that the defendant shot the victim due to a previous argument where the defendant allegedly threatened the victim. The prior argument is what establishes premeditation.
Second-Degree Murder Defined
Under Pennsylvania criminal law, second-degree murder is defined as an intentional killing that is NOT premeditated or planned and occurs during the course of committing a felony.
In Philadelphia, individuals are often charged with murder under the legal concept known as the “felony murder rule.” Under this rule of law, a person commits second degree murder if any death (even an accidental one) results from the commission of certain violent felonies. Accomplices, such as get-away drivers, can be charged with murder under the felony murder rule.
These same principles apply to deaths resulting from crimes such as arson, burglary, kidnapping, or rape. They also apply to drug possession or drug dealing felonies. The penalty for second-degree murder is life imprisonment without parole.
Second-Degree Murder Example
During the course of a robbery of a convenience store in North Philadelphia, the store owner is shot and killed. Two individuals who were inside the store committing the robbery are charged with second-degree murder, or felony murder. In addition, the driver of the get-away car is also charged with murder.
Whether you face charges for one of the above-mentioned capital offenses, involuntary or voluntary manslaughter, or felony murder, you need an aggressive lawyer to help you through the complex legal issues and challenges. Firm partner David S. Nenner is rated as a Top Criminal Attorney by Super Lawyers magazine and has over 30 years of experience in criminal law.
Defending Murder Cases
Two things matter most when you’ve been charged with murder: Investigation and experience. Investigating murder cases properly and being represented by a lawyer with extensive trial experience are crucial for defending criminal murder cases.
Oftentimes, thorough investigation leads to additional evidence, such as witnesses or physical evidence. Investigation into the factual claims of known witnesses can help develop or support defense theories at trial, such as an alibi defense.
Juries are often swayed by the trial tactics of the attorneys. Therefore, criminal trial experience is crucial. Lawyers must know how to cross examine prosecution witnesses effectively and present evidence.
Also, constitutional law often comes into play in murder cases. Incriminating statements are often at issue. Evidence and statements may be suppressed or ruled inadmissible in a case. Criminal murder prosecutions often rely heavily on statements made during interrogation. When those statements or other evidence are suppressed, the accused has a better chance at trial or may get a better plea deal. For example, in a murder case in Philadelphia, physical evidence seized in the defendant’s car is thrown out due to an unconstitutional search. As a result, the prosecution may offer a better deal on a lower charge, or if the evidence that got thrown out is critical, the case may be dismissed.
Murder Cases & Sentencing
Mitigation defenses are critical in first-degree murder cases where the life of you or a family member is literally at stake. Under Pennsylvania law, a defendant’s prior history is relevant for purposes of mitigation. Mitigation factors include the defendant’s prior criminal history (or absence of one), mental or emotional illness, family history, employment history, medical history, and more.
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