Murder in the First Degree in Pennsylvania
Facing First Degree Murder Charges in Pennsylvania
Learn about what first degree murder is in Pennsylvania and what to do if you or a loved one is facing accusations or criminal homicide charges. Facing first degree murder is a pivotable moment in a person’s life. Is it the time to reach out to an inexperienced criminal attorney or a former prosecutor who touts his convictions but lacks experience gaining murder acquittals? Before it’s too late, call our team. Facing first degree murder charges anywhere in Pennsylvania and need help, call the Ciccarelli Legal Team at (610) 692-8700.
Getting the Best Defense where you are facing First Degree Murder Charges
Reach out to the Ciccarelli Legal Team, when you are facing a first degree murder in the greater Philadelphia metro area, including Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Lancaster County, Montgomery County and throughout Pennsylvania. Then ask yourself, why you are not calling now and scheduling a time to meet with us. Call now at (610) 692-8700.
Our team of lawyers at Ciccarelli Law Offices is ready to fight for you. When the threat of prosecution for homicide and murder is real, you need to look for the best options and find a top murder defense team serving Chester County and beyond. Based in West Chester (Chester County) in the Philadelphia Metro Area, the Ciccarelli Legal Team defends the rights of murder and homicide defendants throughout Pennsylvania.
What is Murder in the First Degree in Chester County PA
Murder in the first degree is the most serious charge which you can face, both in the state of Pennsylvania, and across the nation. Murder in the first degree is a grave crime which can lead to the death penalty or life in prison upon conviction. Murder in the first degree is both an intentional and a premeditated act. The specific intent, as well as the preparation to kill another human being sets murder in the first degree apart from other types of murder. Examples of murder in the first degree would include administering poison to another person, lying in wait to kill another human being, or any other type of willful, premeditated deliberate killing which includes intent and preparation.
In order to convict a person of first-degree murder, the prosecution must prove there was specific intent to kill (rather than only to injure) and that the killing was done with malice aforethought. While the prosecutor may establish express or implied malice, charges of first-degree murder will usually require that express malice be shown. Express malice is the intent to kill another human being when such intent arises from a deliberate, rational mind. Implied malice can only be inferred from the conduct of a person. Although the state of Pennsylvania rarely implements the death penalty, it is a possible penalty of a first-degree murder conviction.
The use of a deadly weapon has been held by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as sufficient to establish an intent to kill. Further, the prosecution can prove intent to kill through circumstantial evidence. Because the charges of first-degree murder carry such heavy penalties, it is essential that a highly experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney be on the case as soon as charges are filed. Reviewing discovery in a first-degree murder case can take countless hours—the scene of the crime will be visited, witnesses will be interviewed, relevant case law reviewed, investigators consulted, pre-trial motions drafted, and any DNA evidence carefully evaluated.
Defenses to First-Degree Murder
While the specific defenses to the charges of first-degree murder will be tailored to the circumstances and facts of the case, the following are “typical” first-degree murder defenses which could be applicable in your situation:
- Diminished capacity—this means you lacked the mental capacity necessary to fully understand the consequences of your actions. Diminished capacity differs from an insanity plea in that an insanity plea typically results in a verdict of “not guilty,” with the defendant being placed in a mental institution. A plea of diminished capacity, on the other hand will usually result in a conviction of a lesser offense—in this case, a first-degree murder charge being reduced to second or third-degree murder or even voluntary manslaughter. A diminished capacity plea is based on the belief that due to mental impairment or disease, you were incapable of reaching the mental state required to commit first-degree murder.
- Voluntary intoxication—This defense is used by an attorney to reduce a first-degree murder charge to a lesser charge—either second or third-degree murder, or perhaps voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
- Insanity—As noted above, if your attorney offers an insanity plea on your behalf, you are likely to be placed in a mental institution.
- Self-defense—Your attorney may seek to show that you acted in self-defense rather than committing a premeditated act of murder.
- Battered Women’s Syndrome—If you killed a person who had, in the past, regularly assaulted and abused you, then even if your act was premeditated your attorney may be able to claim Battered Women’s Syndrome as a defense.
- Accidental killing with no criminal intent while engaging in lawful activity.
- Duress—you admit that you did commit the act of murder, however you did so under duress.
- Alibi—You have a solid alibi which would exclude you from being the murderer.
- Mistaken identity—Witnesses who identified you as the person who committed the murder are either deliberately lying or are simply mistaken. (Eyewitness identifications are notoriously unreliable).
Time is of the Essence
If you have been charged with first-degree murder, it is critical to speak to an attorney immediately—even if you have reason to believe you might be charged with the crime, having an attorney by your side when you are charged can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. There are certain issues which have a limited amount of time to be presented, including a notice of self-defense or a notice of alibi, therefore an investigation into charges of murder must, by necessity, begin quickly. To avoid being placed on death row or spending the remainder of your life in prison—with no possibility of parole—you need a solid advocate by your side who truly cares about your future and who will fight hard to protect your rights.
Get The “Right Defense” When facing Pennsylvania First Degree Murder Charges
When you or a loved one is facing first degree murder allegations or charges, gain the benefit and experience of the Ciccarelli Legal Team. We bring years of experience defending clients, demanding justice and fighting for acquittals. Our team is ready to represent you when you are facing homicide and murder charges in Pennsylvania. We are based in based in suburban Philadelphia and serve clients throughout Pennsylvania. Contact us at (610) 692-8700.