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The Scranton, PA area has seen an increase in the number of murder and major felony cases in the last few years. In the last two months, there has been at least one murder case and one attempted murder case filed in Scranton. One case involved a fatal stabbing, and the other involved a shooting. Also, last month, a Lackawanna County judge ruled on the case of three teens charged with the murder of a police officer.
Three Juveniles Charged with Murder, Cases Held for Trial (March 2016)
In 2015, three Scranton area teens were charged with murder after a police officer who was chasing them jumped over a wall and struck his head on the concrete floor below. The officer died, and the three teens were charged with second degree murder. Their attorneys have filed motions seeking to have the cases moved to juvenile court. If these teens are convicted of second degree murder as adults, they face a mandatory life sentence. Obviously the stakes are very high for these young men.
The three teens face multiple charges. The most serious are second degree murder and second degree murder of a law enforcement officer. Let’s take a look at the statutes involved.
Second Degree Murder, Title 18, Section 2502(b)
Under Pennsylvania law, second degree murder is defined as the murder of another person by a principal actor or an accomplice during the commission of a felony. A conviction for second degree murder results in a mandatory life sentence.
Second Degree Murder of a Police Officer Title 18, Section 2507(b)
When the individual who is murdered is a law enforcement officer (police officer), Pennsylvania treats the situation the same, but a separate law applies. Under Section 2507(b):
(b) Murder of a law enforcement officer of the second degree. A person commits murder of a law enforcement officer of the second degree who engages as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony during which a law enforcement officer is killed while in the performance of duty.
Essentially, this law is written so that murder of a police officer which occurs during the commission of a felony is still second degree murder. Importantly, an accomplice can be held guilty to the same degree as a principal. For example, two individuals are carrying out a robbery. A vehicle chase ensues. The passenger shoots a police officer during the get-away. Because of this special felony-murder rule, the driver can also be charged with and convicted of the second degree murder of a law enforcement officer.
Sentencing for Conviction Under Section 2507(b)
There are separate sentencing laws for a conviction under Section 2507 (murder of a law enforcement officer). Under Title 18, Section 1102(b), second degree murder of a law enforcement officer results in a life in prison sentence. This is the same sentence for a second degree murder conviction under Section 2502.
Second Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer (Committed by a Minor)
Section 1102.1, Sentence of persons under the age of 18 for murder, murder of an unborn child and murder of a law enforcement officer, subsection (c) provides:
A person who has been convicted after June 24, 2012, of a murder of the second degree, second degree murder of an unborn child or murder of a law enforcement officer of the second degree and who was under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the offense shall be sentenced as follows:
(1) A person who at the time of the commission of the offense was 15 years of age or older shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment the minimum of which shall be at least 30 years to life.
(2) A person who at the time of the commission of the offense was under 15 years of age shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment the minimum of which shall be at least 20 years to life.
Under Section 1102.1, minors who are convicted of second degree murder of a law enforcement officer receive life sentences with the possibility of parole after 30 years (age 15 or older at time of offense) or 20 years (under age 15 at time of offense).
Top Rated Criminal Lawyers – Handling Murder, Felony Cases in Scranton (Lackawanna County)
Our criminal lawyers have over 25 years of experience handling major felony cases including murder and attempted murder charges. Our firm handles criminal matters in the Scranton (Lackawanna County) area. Please call for a free case review. (215) 564-0644
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