I have been arrested, I think for murder, or some other crime related to the death of an individual, and need help with my murder case defense. Where do I start?
First and foremost, it is important to understand that if charges will be or have been brought against you relative to someone’s death it does not necessarily mean that you are facing “murder” charges. There are a number of different statutes in Indiana that set forth the laws regarding the killing of one human being by the act or omission of another human being (homicide or murder is a very general term commonly used to describe all such crimes that fit with the death of another that is criminal in nature).
The crimes under the “homicide umbrella” are murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, feticide, causing suicide and assisting suicide. Each crime has a different legal focus, meaning, and elements; these different elements must be established and proven by the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof; each crime has a different set of penalties (and fines) that apply – from life in prison without possibility of parole to a few years of incarceration. However, the apparent facts of a case may allow a higher crime to be charged, and one to be convicted, without a great deal of legal work by counsel to differentiate one crime from the other. A small fact can change an entire case and defense.
Murder in Indiana is defined as the unjustified, unexcused killing of one human being by another human being with malice aforethought. This is the highest crime under Indiana State criminal law. Again there are other crimes that involve the death of another that do not rise to this penal level because the person who causes the death did not intend to do so, nor did he or she do so with malice aforethought. Simply put, murder cases in Indiana are those where a person has knowingly or intentionally killed another human being, or if another person was killed while committing or attempting to commit forcible felonies, such as arson, burglary, kidnapping, rape, carjacking, etc., which is known as felony murder.
Voluntary manslaughter is another crime involving the death of a human being, which falls under the murder/homicide umbrella of crimes. This involves the intentional act of killing, but that killing stems, typically, from a sudden heat of passion. The “heat of passion” is most often an argument or fight, basically any circumstances that show the offender/attacker could not have planned the killing in advance, but rather that it happened as the product of shock and anger.
Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another person while committing or attempting to commit certain crimes.
Reckless homicide is the unintentional, but effectively negligent, killing of another person. The offender need not have engaged in the commission of a crime at the time of the killing, nor intended to commit it; rather it is the reckless actions of the offender that cause the death of another, which under certain facts leads to criminal culpability. There is a fine factual and legal line between this crime and no crime to charge at all, such as with freak accidents.
If you are facing murder charges, it is imperative that you retain a murder attorney as soon as feasible. He or she can sort out the lesser included offenses you might plea to under the murder/homicide umbrella if that is your desire. In order to do so, discovery, or gathering all relevant information about the case, is necessary. This takes time and understanding by the attorney of the facts and dynamics at hand.
An experienced murder lawyer, whose job it is to defend murder cases, fights on your behalf and works hard to develop a defense while at the same time mitigating the potential consequences of any guilty plea or verdict, such as execution, mandatory prison sentence, supervised release, life in prison without parole, long supervised parole, restitution, and the lifelong stigma of being a convicted felon.
Hiring a murder defense attorney you are compatible with could be the most important step in your defense and life. Each lawyer has a certain level of experience, style and approach to criminal law and defense. It is important not only to find someone that is qualified to handle your case, but also someone with whom you are comfortable and with whom you can communicate openly and honestly. Your choice of Indianapolis murder lawyer should be given serious consideration.
As in all criminal matters, the earlier you consult and retain an attorney, the greater protection you will receive when it comes to preserving and asserting your rights.
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