If you are facing first-degree murder charges, you’ll want to work with a criminal defense attorney that handles cases of homicide. These charges should be taken very seriously, as they can mean life in prison or even the death penalty.
Fight Against First Degree Murder Charges
Before we discuss how you should handle your first-degree murder charges, let’s define what homicide and first degree charges mean.
Homicide: the killing of one individual at the hands of another human being. Perhaps no other class of crimes catches the headlines and enflames the passions of the community quite like homicide cases. When someone is accused of a homicide offense, it is easy for community members to rush to judgment and the rights of the defendant to be ignored in favor of wanting “swift justice.” As any defendant wrongly convicted of a crime can say, however, swift justice that denies the defendant a fair trial is no justice at all.
First degree murder charges are filed when a death has occurred and the defendant premeditated before committing the killing. Premeditation does not have to occur over a long period of time, nor does there have to be an elaborate plan for premeditation to be found. All that is required is evidence that the defendant had some opportunity to consider or deliberate whether or not to kill the victim. A person found guilty of first-degree murder can be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years, natural life with no possibility of parole, or the death penalty.
Many factors, including state laws and the facts of the case, will determine how a convicted murderer is sentenced. For most states, first-degree murder convictions bring either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Sentencing typically depends on if the prosecution can prove any of a host of aggravating factors such as the following:
- A defendant had one or more previous murder convictions;
- The homicide occurred during another violent crime (such as arson, rape or robbery);
- The victim was a law enforcement officer in the process of performing his or her duties;
- The victim was a judge, prosecutor, witness or juror that was killed to prevent the performance of their duties;
- The homicide was particularly heinous or involved torture;
- The defendant laid in wait (waited and ambushed) the victim;
- The defendant poisoned the victim;
- The homicide involved bombs or explosive materials; or
- The defendant was an active gang member and the victim was killed as part of gang activity.
Most states retain the death penalty as an option for people convicted of the highest degree of murder charges, but they vary in how a prosecuting team will seek the death penalty.
Life without the Possibility of Parole
For states that do not impose the death penalty, a conviction on a first degree murder charge with aggravating factors usually results in sentencing of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
When someone is accused of a homicide offense, it is easy for community members to rush to judgment and the rights of the defendant to be ignored in favor of wanting “swift justice.” As any defendant wrongly convicted of a crime can say, however, swift justice that denies the defendant a fair trial is no justice at all.
If you, a family member, or friend is charged with a homicide offense, you are in a perilous situation and need immediate, experienced, and zealous legal advocacy. You need representation from an Arizona defense attorney who is knowledgeable about the law and procedures in these types of cases and is willing to fight for your freedom. Mr. Ferragut has two decades of successful experience fighting murder cases, including high-profile cases that have made local and national news.
What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?
Criminal law covers a wide variety of topics, including homicide defense, DUI defense, petty theft, drug crimes, grand theft, and sex crimes just to name a few. If you have been accused of any form of crime, it is always advised that you work with a criminal law attorney like the ones at Ferragut Law Firm.
Possible defenses to homicide charges include:
- Self-defense or defense of another. You killed the victim because he or she presented an imminent risk of serious harm or death to yourself or to another. This usually requires the jury to find that you were reasonable in using deadly force and that you were not the aggressor in the confrontation (in other words, you did not start the fight).
- Alibi. This defense is used when you were not at the place of the homicide on the date and/or time the homicide took place and others can verify your whereabouts. Witnesses will need to be interviewed, documents obtained and materials preserved in a timely manner to support this defense.
- Insanity. The insanity defense applies if you suffered from a mental disease or condition that made it impossible for you to know that what you were doing at the time was wrong. This defense, if successful, may have the unpleasant result of the court ordering the accused to involuntary confinement at a psychiatric hospital.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Because the average person does not have an understanding of the criminal justice process, which comprises a number of complex state and federal laws, it’s always advised that you work with a criminal defense lawyer.
Criminal defense lawyers assist clients as their case moves through the criminal justice process, from pre-trial and through the conclusion of the trial proceedings. In some cases, when a client suspects that they might be charged with a crime a client will make the decision to retain a lawyer before they have even been charged. If you have been involved in a criminal incident and have suspicions that you might need a lawyer, it’s best to hire one as quickly as possible as they will be able to provide you with guidance on how to proceed. The earlier an attorney is involved in a case, the more protection they can offer, and even in times ensure that a suspect does not divulge any potentially incriminating information.
A criminal defense lawyer will also be able to advise a client on if a case can even be brought against their client. In cases where there is insufficient evidence, a lawyer’s main objective will be to have the court drop the charges against a client. There are many avenues of defense that a lawyer can apply, including challenging probable cause, persuading a court to reduce or waive bail, and negotiating a plea bargain to reduce charges to a lesser crime or reduce sentencing.
The role of a criminal defense lawyer will be entirely based on the case that is presented and the type of defense that a client needs. Obtaining the help of a criminal defense lawyer early on in your case can mean the difference between guilty and not guilty.
Ferragut Law Firm Will Defend You
Ferragut Law Firm is a top rated criminal defense law firm based in Phoenix Arizona. We are dedicated exclusively to the practice of criminal law in all state, federal, and city courts throughout the State of Arizona.
Our mission is to achieve the best possible results for our clients through hard work, attention to detail, and aggressive advocacy, while maintaining the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and ethical standards.
We are committed to providing the most aggressive, professional, and effective representation for our clients accused of crimes to ensure that their legal rights are protected and that the best possible results are achieved. Contact us to discuss the details of your case.
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2 North Central Avenue, Suite #1125
Phoenix, Arizona 85004