Murder in the Second Degree in Pennsylvania
Facing Second Degree Murder Charges in Pennsylvania
Learn about what second degree murder is in Pennsylvania and what to do if you or a loved one is facing accusations or criminal homicide charges. Facing second 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 second 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 Second Degree Murder Charges
Reach out to the Ciccarelli Legal Team, when you are facing a second 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.
Information on a Chester County Second Degree Murder Charge
Second-degree murder is the act of killing another human being without premeditation (during the heat of the moment) or during the commission of a felony. Although charges of second-degree murder are not quite as serious as first-degree murder charges, they are nonetheless nothing to take lightly. In fact, the penalty in the state of Pennsylvania for a conviction of second-degree murder can be life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Pennsylvania’s second-degree murder laws apply both to principals as well as to accomplices. This means that the getaway driver who is considered an accomplice in the crime of robbery, could potentially be found guilty of second-degree murder if the person who actually committed the robbery kills a person inside the bank. Underlying felonies which typically trigger charges of second-degree murder include:
- Drug trafficking
- Drug dealing
In order for a second-degree murder charge to result in a conviction one or more of the following elements must be present:
- It must be shown that you acted with malice in the commission of the crime.
- It is not necessary to show that the killing is one you could have foreseen or one that you specifically planned for.
- Second-degree murder charges can stem from an act in which you intended to cause serious bodily harm, knowing full well that death could also result. In other words, while you might not have intended to kill another person, you knew when you pointed a gun at that person and pulled the trigger that death was a very definite outcome.
- Second-degree murder charges can also stem from a depraved indifference to human life. This means you had an utter disregard for any potential damage your actions might cause to others. As an example, suppose you are angry with your neighbor and you pull a gun and begin shooting into his home, knowing full well that other people live in the house as well and could be hit by a bullet.
So, second-degree murder charges could stem from an intentional killing which is neither planned or premeditated nor is it committed during the heat of passion. Second-degree murder charges can also result from a killing which is caused by your dangerous conduct and/or a lack of concern for human life. Second-degree murder is usually considered the middle ground between first-degree murder charges and charges of voluntary manslaughter.
First-Degree Murder vs. Second-Degree Murder
While a person dies in either a first or second-degree murder, what essentially separates the two charges is the mental state of the defendant at the time of the killing. In first-degree murder charges, it must be shown that the act of killing another human being was premeditated—you specifically made plans to kill another person. No premeditation is required for second-degree murder charges which may be done impulsively, may result from an act which was intended to cause serious bodily harm or could clearly show you demonstrated a depraved indifference to human life.
Proximate Cause Theory vs. Agency Theory
While some states operate under what is known as the “proximate cause theory”—meaning for second-degree murder charges to stand the death must have been a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the crime—Pennsylvania operates under the “agency theory,” which means it must be shown that the conduct which caused the death was done in furtherance of the design to commit the felony. This means that the mere coincidence of homicide and felony does not, in and of itself, satisfy the second-degree felony murder doctrine. In other words, the victim’s death must be a consequence, rather than merely a coincidence of the underlying felony.
Defenses to Second-Degree Murder Charges
Several defenses might be applicable for your charges of second-degree murder, depending on the circumstances surrounding your crime. Either your attorney can assert you did not actually commit the crime, or that you did commit the murder but there was justification involved (an affirmative defense). Some of the more common defenses to second-degree murder charges include:
- Actual innocence—you did not commit the crime and have a solid alibi which proves you could not have committed the crime. The burden of proof in a murder case is on the state, therefore the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are the person who committed the act of murder.
- Mistaken identity—You were identified by a witness as the perpetrator of the crime, however the identification is incorrect. Again, the burden of proof lies with the state to show that the eyewitness’ identification is accurate.
- Insanity—A defense of insanity does not necessarily relieve the defendant of all responsibility for a second-degree murder charge—the jury may agree you had a mental illness at the time of the criminal act, but that you nonetheless knew your actions were wrong, or not allowed.
- Self-defense—If you killed another human being to protect your own life or the life of another person, you may be able to escape the legal consequences of the killing. The basic elements of a self-defense claim include the fact that you must not have been in a place you were prohibited from entering, you were not the aggressor or the instigator, you had a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm and you attempted to retreat from the threat but were unable to do so.
- Voluntary intoxication—if you committed the murder because you were drunk or otherwise intoxicated, this is generally not an excuse for committing the act of second-degree murder, although under certain circumstances a voluntary intoxication defense might result in your charges being reduced to third-degree murder or manslaughter.
Get The “Right Defense” When facing Pennsylvania Second Degree Murder Charges
When you or a loved one is facing second degree murder allegations or charges, gain the benefit and experience of the Ciccarelli Legal Team. We brings 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.