Murder and manslaughter charges can carry the harshest penalties. Lengthy prison sentences are not uncommon, and the vast majority of death sentences are for murder charges. Defending against these serious charges can require extensive preparation and investigation, so the best move is to secure effective representation as soon as possible. Additionally, it’s important to understand the penalties you may face and how your attorney may be able to defend you.

Murder Carries Serious Penalties in Virginia

Defenses for murder

Virginia takes murder charges seriously. In fact, murder is the only crime eligible for capital punishment in the state. However, not all murders are the same legally. Different types of murder carry different penalties, and these include:

  • Capital murder may be punishable by death, life imprisonment, and up to $100,000 in fines. This categorization includes contract murder, multiple murders, murder involving abduction or kidnapping, intentional murder during a drug-related exchange, and murder of a law enforcement officer.
  • First-degree may be punishable by 20 years to life in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. This categorization applies to any murders that were premeditated and murders including poison, imprisonment or starving, and rape.
  • Second-degree may be punishable by 5 to 40 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. This categorization can include anything not named by the capital or first-degree types, even accidents.

Some types of murder included in the capital categorization may appear similar to those in the first-degree. However, the main difference in these is intent. Planning a murder may mean the difference between a first-degree murder and a capital murder.

Possible Murder Defenses

Because a murder conviction could end with such serious penalties, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who can investigate the facts, hear your story, and build a solid, personalized defense for your case. Depending on your version of events and what new information you may provide, your attorney can show that you didn’t have the opportunity, ability, or motivation to commit the murder and may choose to include the following in your defense:

  • Defense of self or others. Perhaps the death was a result of self-protection or protection of another person. Here, there are two types of self-defense: perfect and imperfect. The difference lies in whether the offender believed he was defending self and others by committing the act.
  • Mistaken identity. It’s possible you resembled the person who committed the crime, or you were confused with another person.
  • Alibi. Having multiple accounts and hard evidence showing you were in a different location, far from the murder, is an effective defense.
  • Manslaughter. The difference between murder and manslaughter is intent, and it’s possible your attorney could have your charges lowered if he’s able to prove the death wasn’t the result of planning or forethought.
  • Mental Issue. Legally, you are unable to intentionally kill people if you are temporarily or permanently insane, intoxicated, or unconscious. These may be factors an attorney can use to defend you or a loved one.
  • The truth. When you hire an attorney, he will ask to hear your story in as much detail as possible from beginning to end. During this time, it’s important to share the whole truth and not hold back any information because you’re embarrassed or ashamed; almost anything you tell your attorney is protected by attorney–client privilege. If your lawyer has the truth, he has all the cornerstone of a good defense.

Consult With a Trustworthy Attorney

If you’ve recently been charged with murder, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Without legal representation, you may face years in prison, serious fines, or even the death penalty. The team at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi is available to review your case, answer your questions, and build a solid defense for you. To get started with our firm, fill out the online contact form on our website today.