Homicide charges are among the most serious criminal charges a person can face. Consequences can range from lengthy imprisonment to the death penalty. There are several available defenses to homicide charges, however, that can assist those who have been charged with homicide. This post will review some of these defenses.
What is Homicide?
Homicide occurs when one individual unlawfully kills another human being. There are several types of acts covered under the legal definition of homicide, such as murder and manslaughter. Depending on the jurisdiction, less-commonly charged types of homicide can include assisted suicide and shaken baby syndrome. Defenses available and the legal consequences for specific homicide crimes can vary depending on the crime.
How is Someone Found Guilty of Homicide?
To be found guilty of homicide, the prosecution must prove the accused both committed the act of killing and simultaneously acted with the requisite mental state necessary to commit the crime. If the prosecution cannot prove both, an individual cannot be found guilty of the homicide crime they are charged with committing. Different types of homicide crimes require different types of mental states.
What Are Some Specific Defenses Against Homicide?
Since homicide crimes require the prosecution to show the required mental state, homicide charges can be defended against by alleging the required mental state was not present. For example: first-degree murder requires an individual acted intentionally, maliciously, and in a premeditated and deliberate way. So, a successful defense to first-degree murder could demonstrate that the accused individual did not act in a way that was premeditated, deliberate, or intentional. Other ways of asserting the “lack of intent” defense include not guilty by reason of insanity, mistake that their life was at stake, intoxication, or diminished capacity resulting from an extremely stressful situation.
There are other defenses which can be asserted as well. Another commonly-asserted defense to homicide is that it was justified under the circumstances. With these types of defenses. the accused can argue that the homicide they committed was justifiable because it was based upon the need for self-defense, defense of property, duress, or preventing a crime.
Finally, the accused can also present evidence demonstrating that the did not, in fact, commit the homicide.
What is the Effect of Asserting These Defenses Against Homicide?
As stated above, homicide is one of the most serious crimes you can be charged with. While every case is different, and no outcome is guaranteed, there are two general types of goals with respect to asserting the above defenses. The first goal is to completely eliminate the charges such that the defendant is found not guilty. The second goal is to reduce a more serious type of homicide (such as first-degree murder) to a less serious type of homicide (such as voluntary manslaughter).
What Should You Do if You or a Loved One Is Charged With Homicide?
Homicide is an incredibly serious charge that can subject those accused of it to extremely significant consequence. If you or a loved one has been charged with homicide, the experienced attorneys at Blischak Law are ready to help. They will fight hard for your rights and to make sure that you or your loved one are defended to the fullest extent. Contact a criminal defense attorney at Blischak Law today to learn about your options.