Lancaster Homicide and Vehicular Homicide Crimes
The latest FBI data shows that crime fell in the United States, although the decline was largely due to fewer property offenses. The state of Pennsylvania also saw a slight downturn in violent crimes. Experts find this drop particularly notable, given that crime rates actually increased in 2015 and 2016. In the state of Pennsylvania, the violent crime rate was lower than the national rate at 313.3 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. This number included 739 murders and nonnegligent manslaughters. The murder rate in Pennsylvania, however, was 5.8 per 100,000 residents—higher than the national murder rate of 5.3 per 100,000 residents.
There were approximately 1.28 million violent crimes across the nation in 2017; the number of robberies fell 4 percent while the number of aggravated assaults and rapes increased by 1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Experts from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School shows that for the thirty largest cities in the United States, the overall crime rate dropped about 1 percent and the murder rate dropped about 2.4 percent. In the very largest cities in the U.S., murder rates dropped as much as 8.1 percent.
At the time in 2017 when the above statistics were reported, it was expected that the trend for lower violent crime rates would continue. The FBI report is based on voluntarily provided data from law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. In the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there were 8.4 murders per 100,000 people—in the entire state of Pennsylvania, there were 5.8 murders per 100,000 people.
If you are facing vehicular homicide or homicide charges, we can help. Our team of attorneys have the experience, passion, and consideration to protect your future and your freedom during this difficult legal process. Contact us today at (717) 291-9400 or (877) 529-2422. Our Lancaster Office is located at 313 West Liberty Place, Lancaster PA 17603.
Understanding the Charges of Murder in Lancaster
Pennsylvania was the very first state in the United States which differentiated the crime of murder into degrees based upon the perpetrator’s culpability. To that point, most American jurisdictions maintained the law of murder built around common law classifications. Until the early 1960’s, the offense of murder was defined as intentional homicide with malice aforethought. The decision to try a defendant for intentional homicide in the first or second degree was left to the jury to decide, however this was challenged in Supreme Court cases. Today, criminal homicide in Pennsylvania is defined as the unlawful death of a human being.
There are three types of murder and two types of manslaughter; murder is distinguished from manslaughter by the presence of malice. The prosecutor can establish either express malice or implied malice, and to be charged with first-degree murder express malice is generally required. The prosecutor must also prove the defendant had a specific intent to kill. In the state of Pennsylvania, first-degree murder is the highest degree of murder, and must include a premeditated, unlawful killing of a human being. In other words, premeditation (planning and deliberate acts) set first-degree murder apart from second-degree murder.
First-Degree Murder in Lancaster
Under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 2502 (a) and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 1102, the crime of murder in the first degree requires that malice and premeditation be proven. Defenses to murder in the first degree will depend on the circumstances surrounding the offense, however these are some of the potential defenses a Lancaster criminal defense attorney might use:
- The attorney might assert the defendant lacked the mental capacity necessary to form a plan for a premeditated murder. While this defense does not relieve the defendant of criminal liability, it could reduce the charges to a lower classification of murder.
- The attorney could assert the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated, lowering the charges to a lower degree of criminal homicide.
- The defendant may qualify for a defense of mental insanity.
- The attorney could show that the defendant acted in self-defense.
- If the defendant is a woman, the attorney may be able to show she committed the murder because of battered women’s syndrome.
- The attorney may be able to show the killing lacked criminal intent and was, in fact an accident killing which occurred while the defendant was engaged in a lawful activity.
- Finally, it may be shown that the defendant acted under duress.
The penalties for first-degree murder include the death penalty or life in prison. If the prosecutor can show there were aggravating circumstances, then the death penalty may be sought.
Second-Degree Murder in Lancaster
Under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 2502 (b), murder in the second degree occurs when the murder is committed while the defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony. In other words, there must have been an underlying felony in progress, such as a burglary, robbery, rape or kidnapping when the murder occurred. As with first-degree murder, proof of malice must be shown; the prosecutor must show the defendant’s general intent to commit an unlawful act or achieve a harmful result. The prosecutor can infer malice from the defendant’s intent to participate in the underlying felony.
Specific intent to kill must be shown in order to prosecute the crime as a murder rather than manslaughter. Like malice, the intent to kill can be inferred from the defendant’s intent to carry out the underlying felony. Some of the defenses to second-degree murder are much the same as those for first-degree murder, however in a second-degree murder case the attorney may be able to show the death resulted from the victim’s independent action and not through the commission of the underlying felony, or that the defendant had no intent to commit the underlying felony. The maximum sentence for a second-degree murder conviction is life in prison.
Third-Degree Murder in Lancaster
Under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 2502 (c), all other kinds of murder, other than first-degree and second-degree fall under third-degree murder, which is a first-degree felony in the state of Pennsylvania. Those charged with murder in the third degree killed another person in a way which was not intentional and was not perpetrated while another felony was being committed. Like murder in the first and second degree, however the murder must have been committed with malice—although malice can be inferred through the crime itself. As an example, if a person dies after another person who sells him or her a known counterfeit, controlled substance, then third-degree murder could be charged, since the person who sold the counterfeit drug knew—or should have known—there was a risk of death. A conviction for murder in the third degree is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.
A Lancaster Criminal Defense Law Firm on Your Side after Charges of Manslaughter
Under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 2503, a person who kills another person with no lawful justification if, at the time of the killing, he or she was acting under a “sudden and intense passion” which was the result of provocation by the deceased or another person the defendant tried to kill, however negligently or accidentally caused the death of the person killed. The defendant must have believed at the time of the killing that he or she believed the circumstances justified the killing—even though that belief turned out to be unreasonable. Voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony in the state; a conviction carries a maximum sentence of forty years in prison.
Under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 2504, involuntary manslaughter does not require an intent to kill, rather punishes activities which lead to an unintentional killing when there may have been a disregard for human life involved. The prosecutor must show the defendant caused the victim’s death through reckless conduct or grossly negligent conduct while engaging in either a lawful or unlawful activity. A lawful act, such as driving a car is the basis for involuntary manslaughter if the defendant was driving in a reckless manner. Causality must be shown—that is, there is a link between the reckless or negligent conduct and the death. If the chain of events fails to trace back to the defendant in a significant manner, it could be difficult to prove involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter in the state of Pennsylvania is a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Vehicular Homicide Lawyers You Can Trust in Lancaster
In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a person who causes the death of another person due to negligent or reckless driving likely faces significant guilt as well as a potential sentence of up to seven years in prison, a $15,000 fine and a three-year driver’s license suspension. A Homicide by Vehicle While DUI conviction carries a mandatory three-year minimum prison sentence and up to ten years for each person whose death it can be shown you caused. Homicide by Vehicle While DUI is a second-degree felony, while Homicide by Vehicle is a type of involuntary manslaughter and is a third-degree felony.
How We Can Help
Any time a life is taken, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, the charges in the state of Pennsylvania will be extremely serious, with very harsh penalties in the event of a conviction. If you have been arrested for any type of homicide, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Lancaster homicide attorney as quickly as possible. The quicker your attorney can be on the case, the sooner your rights and your future will be protected. Your Lancaster criminal defense attorney will work closely with you to determine the best defense for your particular circumstances, working hard for the best outcome possible.
Contact Our Lancaster Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you have been charged with homicide or vehicular homicide in Lancaster, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced Lancaster criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible to begin building a swift defense against these serious charges. The highly experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices can help. We will fight aggressively for your rights and freedom. Contact the Ciccarelli Law Offices today by email or by phone at (717) 291-9400 or (877) 529-2422 immediately to begin building a solid defense against these serious charges.
Homicide and Vehicular Homicide Lawyers in Lancaster PA
We are criminal defense lawyers that defend individuals facing vehicular homicide, homicide by deliver, manslaughter, homicide and murder charges in Lancaster County PA. If you or a loved one is a suspect or facing homicide arrest and prosecution, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices for a free consultation. Our Lancaster County attorneys have represented individuals accused of homicide crimes throughout Lancaster County, including: Lancaster, Ephrata, Elizabethtown, Columbia, Lititz, Millersville, Willow Street, Mount Joy, Leola, New Holland, Manheim, East Petersburg, Akron, Denver, Maytown, Reamstown, Brownstown, Strasburg, Mountville, Salunga, Marletta, Quarryville, Swartzville, and Bowmansville.Call our Lancaster office at (717) 291-9400 to schedule your consultation.