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Homicide charges are some of the most serious criminal charges you can face and carry some of the harshest consequences. In addition, homicide cases are prosecuted aggressively, and prosecutors will bring a tremendous amount of pressure to persuade you to plead guilty. The prospect of going to prison for homicide can be overwhelming, and you might feel like the situation is hopeless.
If you’ve been charged with homicide, the best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help you understand the charges, the evidence against you, and explain your options. She provides dedicated, aggressive criminal defense representation to ensure that you get a fair result. Your entire life is at stake, and you need someone on your side. Call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or complete our online contact form in order to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.
Types of Homicide Charges
Most people think of the word “homicide” as being synonymous with “murder.” This is not always the case, as homicide charges include two categories of crimes:
- Intentional killings; and
- Unintentional killings.
Generally speaking, an intentional killing is charged as murder, while unintentional killings are charged as manslaughter. Each crime has specific elements that the prosecution must prove in order for you to be convicted.
In New Jersey, murder is charged as a first-degree offense. New Jersey law provides for three different types of murder charges:
- You purposefully caused the death or serious bodily injury that resulted in death; or
- You knowingly caused death or serious bodily injury that resulted in death; or
- You committed murder while in the commission of another crime.
The first two types of murder charges are very similar – there is only a subtle difference between purposefully and knowingly causing someone’s death. “Purposefully” means that you intended to kill them. For example, you took out a gun and shot your enemy with the express purpose of killing them. “Knowingly” means that you were aware of your actions, but perhaps didn’t expressly intent to kill the other person. To use the prior example, maybe you were shooting at another person without intending to kill them.
Whether purposefully or knowingly, the prosecution must provide that you had the necessary intent to commit murder. This isn’t as easy as it appears – it can be difficult to prove someone’s mental state, and the prosecution will need to rely on circumstantial evidence.
The third type of murder charge is often referred to as “felony murder.” Felony murder is charged when someone is killed during the commission of a serious crime or when the perpetrator is fleeing the scene. If you kill someone while committing one of the following crimes, you could be charged with felony murder:
- Sexual assault or rape
It’s important to note that the prosecution does not need to prove that you intended to kill the victim, either intentionally or knowingly. The death could have been purely accidental, but if it occurred while committing a crime, that may be sufficient to charge you with felony murder.
Criminal manslaughter is charged when you killed someone but did not intend to (unless, as described above, the death occurred while committing a crime). There are two main categories of manslaughter in New Jersey:
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Involuntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is charged when you intended to kill someone or cause serious bodily harm in the heat of the moment and without premeditation or advance planning. Crimes of passion are typically charged as voluntary manslaughter. It is a lesser charge than first-degree murder, but you have to prove that there was adequate provocation and that you did not have time to cool off. For example, if you came home and found your spouse in bed with someone else, your overwhelming emotion in that moment may have led you to cause serious injury or even death.
Under New Jersey law, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you recklessly caused the death of another person. In other words, if you did not intend to kill anyone, and the death was accidental. New Jersey law provides for two different scenarios where involuntary manslaughter may be charged:
- Extreme indifference to human life (referred to as “aggravated manslaughter”); and
- Reckless behavior that resulted in death.
It is difficult to explain the difference between “reckless” indifference and “extreme” indifference but is sometimes defined by statute. For example, you can be charged with aggravated manslaughter if you caused someone’s death while running from the police. However, it is critical to understand that aggravated manslaughter carries harsher penalties than criminal manslaughter.
Death by Auto
You can also face manslaughter charges if you killed someone while driving either while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if you had not slept for more than 24 hours.
Penalties for Homicide Convictions in New Jersey
Again, homicide is one of the most serious crimes, so it’s not surprising that these charges carry some of the harshest penalties. Here are some of the potential penalties you could be facing if you’ve been charged with homicide:
Murder (including felony murder):
- 30 years to life in prison
- Ineligible for parole for 30 years
- Aggravated manslaughter: a first-degree felony, punishable by 10-30 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $200,000
- Voluntary manslaughter (killing in the heat of passion) and criminal manslaughter: a second-degree felony, punishable by 5-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
Death by auto:
- A second-degree felony, punishable by 5-10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $150,000
- Suspension of your driver’s license from 5 years to life
Of course, the prosecution may cite aggravating factors that could increase the penalties for each of these crimes. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you push back against these charges and argue the facts that are in your favor.
Accused of Homicide? Contact New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Lauren Wimmer Today
Don’t let the prosecution convince you that you are guilty beyond hope. You need someone on your side who will fight for a fair result. Criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help you understand the charges you’re facing and the possible consequences so that you can formulate the best possible defense strategy. She knows that your future is at stake, and so she provides compassionate, dedicated legal representation to make sure you get the right outcome. Call us today at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation.