Homicide is the most serious criminal charge you can face in Pennsylvania. While being charged with any crime can be scary and disorienting, being charged with homicide is downright terrifying. The criminal penalties you face can include long-term jail sentences, life in prison, or even the death penalty. In addition, being convicted of homicide will leave your reputation in shambles and likely prevent you from achieving gainful employment in the future.
At Young Marr & Associates, we understand the kind of turmoil a homicide charge can cause to someone’s life, and we know how to fight these charges for you. That is why it is so important that you get in touch with one of our Allentown, PA homicide defense attorneys as soon as possible. Even if you have not yet been charged but believe you are under investigation for homicide, call us today at (215) 372-8667 so we can get to work for you immediately.
Types of Homicide Charges in Allentown
There are quite a few different types of homicide charges, and which one you are charged with can depend on the severity of your actions and the intent behind them. Broadly speaking, a person is guilty of criminal homicide if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently cause the death of another human being. Below is a list of the most common specific types of homicide that are charged in Allentown and throughout Pennsylvania.
People often conflate the words homicide and murder. However, while homicide refers to the overall category of charges related to causing the death of another person, “murder,” legally speaking, has a more specific meaning. This crime is divided into three subtypes: murder of the first degree, murder of the second degree, and murder of the third degree:
First Degree Murder
Murder of the first degree occurs when you intentionally kill someone. This is the most serious type of criminal homicide.
Second Degree Murder
Murder of the second degree occurs when a murder is committed while you are the perpetrator of or an accomplice in the commission of a felony. For example, you can be charged with second-degree murder if a bystander is killed while you are committing a felony robbery, even if it was your accomplice who killed the bystander and not you. Alternatively, even if the bystander died accidentally during the commission of the crime, you can still be charged with this crime. This is often called “felony murder.”
Third Degree Murder
Murder of the third degree is something of a catch-all charge. It is defined in the statute as all other types of murder aside from those defined as murder in the first or the second degrees. Usually, this charge is used when the prosecution wants to downgrade a first-degree murder charge as part of a plea deal so the defendant will not face the potential of the death penalty or life imprisonment.
First- and second-degree murder are ungraded offenses. That means that they are not classified as any type of felony or misdemeanor but rather have their own separate category of penalties. Third-degree murder is a first-degree felony.
There are two types of homicide that are considered “voluntary manslaughter.”
The first is commonly known as a “crime of passion” because it is defined as a murder that occurs in the heat of passion. This occurs when you are under sudden and intense provocation by another person. The classic example is a man walking in to find his wife in bed with another man and becoming so enraged that he shoots and kills him.
The second type of voluntary manslaughter occurs when you kill intentionally, but under circumstances where you genuinely (but unreasonably) believed you were justified in killing someone. An example would be killing someone who was holding a pen that you thought was a knife. This unreasonable belief nonetheless may have led you to think you were acting in self-defense by killing them.
Both types of voluntary manslaughter are first-degree felonies.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when you kill someone without intent or knowledge, but your actions were reckless or grossly negligent. An example would be driving under the influence of alcohol and killing a pedestrian you hit with your vehicle.
Involuntary manslaughter is typically a misdemeanor of the first-degree. If the custodian or caretaker of a child under 12 causes the death of that child under these kinds of circumstances, it will be charged as a second-degree misdemeanor.
Penalties for Criminal Homicide
The penalties for criminal homicide vary greatly depending on which type of homicide you were charged with.
In the case of murders of the first or second degree, these crimes are ungraded. This means they are not classified as a felony or a misdemeanor and instead are their own category of crime with particularly severe potential penalties:
- For murder in the first degree, the penalty is either mandatory life in prison or the death penalty.
- For murder in the second degree, the penalty is a prison term up to life imprisonment, and a life sentence is almost always imposed.
For the other types of homicide, the sentence depends on the type of felony or misdemeanor the charge is classified as:
If charged with a first degree-felony like third-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, you can face up to 20 years in prison.
If charged with a second-degree felony like involuntary manslaughter of a child in your care under 12, you can face up to 10 years in prison.
If charged with a first-degree misdemeanor like involuntary manslaughter, you can face up to 5 years in prison.
Call Our Experienced Allentown, PA Homicide Defense Attorneys Right Away
Homicide is an extremely serious charge with extremely severe penalties. You could face a lifetime locked away in prison or even face death row. You need to take decisive action to protect your rights, and you need an advocate who is not only going to be an aggressive fighter for you but also a compassionate advisor who understands the difficulty of the situation you are facing. At Young Marr & Associates, our Allentown, PA homicide defense attorneys have years of experience dealing with cases like yours and are ready and waiting to fight for your rights and prevent your liberty from being taken away. Call us today at (215) 372-8667 for a free consultation.