Murder and Manslaughter Charges Defense in Denver

Understanding the different types of murder and manslaughter charges in Colorado

Murder and manslaughter charges are among the most high profile of all criminal charges, and if convicted, a person can face penalties that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  Even the simple act of being accused of this type of crime is enough to trigger community reactions that can hurt a defendant and their family members whether they are guilty or not.

Charges related to the killing of another person in Colorado will vary according to the circumstances of the case.  The type of charge that is ultimately filed will depend on an accused person’s intent, state of mind and other factual elements surrounding another person’s death.  Regardless of the elements, if convicted, a person will face a long prison term and in some cases, the death penalty.

It is critical to hire the best possible attorney who has many years of experience to defend you if you are charged with murder or manslaughter. Murder and manslaughter can be charged many different ways:

  • First Degree Murder – This is the most serious of all homicide charges.  For a first-degree murder charge to be filed, it must be alleged that the killing was the result of an intentional act that was premeditated and took place “after deliberation.”  A first-degree murder charge may also be filed if a person is killed during the commission of another felony, during an attempt to commit another felony, or during an attempt to flee after the commission of another felony.  For example, if a person commits a robbery, but uses a gun during the course of that robbery and actually kills the victim, they can be charged with first-degree murder.  A person can also be charged with first-degree murder if they cause a child under 18 to die from drug use after illegally selling or dispensing a controlled substance to him or her on school grounds.
  • Second Degree Murder – A person accused of second-degree murder is being accused of committing that crime as a result of a spontaneous fight or conflict that was not premeditated or committed “after deliberation.”  Colorado also includes “heat of passion” murders within the second-degree murder statute.  A sudden passion murder is one that causes a person to be provoked to anger and act in an irrational way by killing another person.
  • Manslaughter – When a person kills another person accidentally, and they acted in a reckless manner or they helped another person to commit suicide, they can be charged with manslaughter.  The biggest difference between murder and manslaughter is intent.  Manslaughter is a common charge when someone was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and were at fault in a fatal car accident.
  • Attempted murder – This is still a serious charge that can be filed when a person takes a substantial step toward the taking of another person’s life.
  • What are the penalties for murder and manslaughter?

    First-degree murder is a class 1 felony that can be punished with life imprisonment or in some cases, the death penalty.  Certain circumstances must be present for the death penalty punishment to be applicable.

    Second-degree murder is a class 2 felony and sentences will vary depending on the circumstances of the crime.  If a second-degree murder was a violent crime, then the maximum sentence is more than doubled and can be as high as 48 years in prison.  In all other instances, the sentencing guidelines dictate that a second-degree murder conviction will result in a prison sentence of 8 to 24 years, with an additional 5 years of parole.

    Second-degree murder can be reduced to a class 3 felony where the death was caused during the heat of passion.  However, if there was time to cool off after a highly provoking act by the victim, then the charge reverts back to a class 2 felony.  Class 3 felonies carry a much less severe penalty with punishment ranging from 4 to 12 years in prison.  However, if it is a violent crime, then the penalties can be increased to as much as 24 years in prison.

    Another thing for a murder/manslaughter defendant to consider is that the victim’s family can sue the defendant for wrongful death in civil court.  This can happen even if a defendant is not convicted of a homicide crime.  For example, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges, but he later lost a wrongful death civil suit.  This happens because civil cases have a lower level of a standard of proof or preponderance of the evidence.

    Possible defenses against a murder charge

    While murder is a serious charge, there are many possible defense strategies to employ that are based on the facts of a particular case.  The most obvious of these is a claim of innocence, and letting the facts play out in a court of law.  Another commonly used defense is self-defense when a person must take steps to preserve their own life when faced with a serious threat from another.  Deadly force may be justified if a situation exists where a person reasonably believes their own life is in danger.  Colorado does not have a “stand your ground” law as some other states do, but homeowners are afforded certain protections against intruders who may seek to do them harm.  A defense of intoxication will only apply in cases where it makes a person not cognizant enough to commit first-degree murder, thus reducing a charge to second-degree murder.  Mental illness or an insanity plea may be able to be employed, but it is best to discuss this option with your attorney to see if it is viable as a defense.

    Contact Decker & Jones if you have been charged with murder or manslaughter

    Few other crimes are as serious as being charged with murder or manslaughter.  In addition to severe penalties, if you are convicted, you will also face a high degree of public scrutiny and be subjected to judgment by others whether you are found guilty or not.

    Murder and manslaughter cases are complicated and require a long lead time to prepare an effective defense strategy to give a defendant the best possible chance of being acquitted.  For these reasons, you must retain the services of a skilled and experienced murder/manslaughter defense attorney or run the risk of having your life negatively impacted forever.

    When you need a murder defense attorney, turn to Decker & Jones.  At Decker & Jones, we have nearly 30 years of combined legal experience and have provided people with compassionate and comprehensive legal services as they fight serious charges such as these.  We will thoroughly evaluate your case and provide you with the best possible legal options for your situation.

    Contact us today at our Golden or Denver offices at 303-573-5253 or by filling out our online contact form for a free consultation to see how we can put our skills and experience to work for you.