In Pennsylvania, murder is separated into first-, second-, and third-degree murder, classified by intentional killing, felony murder, and all other kinds of murder. Most states divide murder charges into first-degree and second-degree murder. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that charge third-degree murder. The intention behind the killing and how the murder is committed classify which degree of murder is charged.
A murder accusation is incredibly serious. People charged with first-degree murder in PA have no right to bail. First-degree murder can result in a death sentence or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Even juveniles charged with murder can receive a life sentence in PA.. Depending on your case’s details, it may be complicated. A felony murder defense lawyer can help you decide and represent you at trial if needed.
Murder Charges in Pennsylvania
Murder is an intentional act of homicide, showing a plotted dangerous act made with no regard for others’ lives. It is divided into three degrees of charges classifying the extreme actions that result in a felony.
First-degree murder is classified as committing an intentional killing. It means there has been time to consider the act and plan to carry it out, making the killing deliberate and premeditated and showing a specific intent to kill. Pennsylvania law defines intentional killing as killing using poison, lying in wait, or any kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing.
An example of first-degree murder could be a person going to a store to purchase a type of poison that would be lethal and then putting it in someone’s food or drink to consume.
This charge, known as felony murder, occurs when a death happens during another crime, namely a listed felony. The punishment for second-degree murder is a mandatory life-in-prison sentence without parole unless the defendant is a juvenile at the time of the incident.
For second-degree murder, the principal and perpetrator of a felony can both be charged. In Pennsylvania, the felony murder rule can apply to someone who is part of a crime. For example, even if you were only the driver in a felony crime, you can be charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree murder.
The principal is the person who is the actor or the perpetrator of the crime. Perpetration of a felony refers to someone engaging or being an accomplice in an attempt at a robbery, rape, or deviate sexual intercourse or arson, burglary, or kidnapping. This can also include the flight after committing the act.
Other kinds of murder are classified as third-degree murder, a felony of the first degree. Typically, in third-degree murder, a slaying is not intentional or perpetrated while a person commits a felony. An example of this is when someone is shot and eventually dies, but the victim’s death didn’t occur during the time the felony was committed, or the perpetrator did not have the intent to kill.
Third-degree murder can also include administering, selling, or distributing controlled substances, including counterfeit ones that result in someone dying because they directly used the substance.
Punishments for Murder in Pennsylvania
The details of the murder and crime committed will determine the type of punishment a person receives. Penalties and sentences for each degree of murder are:
- First-degree murder. This is the most serious conviction, which can lead to the death penalty or a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
- Second-degree murder. This conviction can be mandatory life imprisonment without parole.
- Third-degree murder. This penalty can be 20 to 40 years in prison.
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Possible Defenses Against Murder Charges in Pennsylvania
If a person faces a murder charge, a lawyer will gather information and evidence during an investigation to prepare a defense strategy. We can evaluate possible strategies once we understand the circumstances of your case. Some defenses could include the following:
- Protection of others
- Diminished capacity: lacking mental capacity to form a specific intent to kill
- Unreliable witnesses
- No intention of committing a felony
- Lack of corroboration
- Voluntary intoxication: ask for reduced charges to a lower degree of criminal homicide
An attorney with our firm can determine how to best defend you against the crime you have been accused of.
A Lawyer Could Defend You if You Are Facing a Murder Charge in Pennsylvania
Being accused of murder can leave you with the potential of extensive prison time, which could cause you stress and permanently change your life. A lawyer from the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC, can evaluate your case to see how we can help fight for your freedom and future. We understand the charges against you and are committed to ensuring you receive fair treatment each step of the way.