North Carolina Homicide Defense Attorney
Murder charges are among the most serious crimes that can possibly be committed. If you are charged with murder or manslaughter in North Carolina, you face the possibility of spending the rest of your life in prison or, in some cases, being put to death by lethal injection.
That’s why, if you’ve been charged with either of these crimes, it’s crucial that you do everything you can to have the charges dropped or reduced to a less serious offense with a less severe punishment. You only have one chance to get it right, and to do so, you need the strongest representation possible from a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer like Aden Wilkie.
As your attorney, Mr. Wilkie will thoroughly explore the facts of your case and locate expert witnesses to help you prepare your defense. Mr. Wilkie is familiar with the complexities of preparing for and defending a charge as serious as murder.
Jacksonville, NC homicide lawyer Aden Wilkie is well-known for providing vigorous criminal defense representation for his clients. Contact the Wilkie Law Firm right away to establish your attorney-client relationship and get to work on building your murder defense today.
Types of Murder Charges in North Carolina
In North Carolina, murder, also known as homicide, is defined under N.C. General Statute § 14-17 as the unlawful killing of a human being done with the intent to hurt or kill the person, or with reckless disregard for their life. Within the legal system, there are a few different degrees of murder. If you receive a murder charge, it will be categorized as one of the following types of murder offenses:
First Degree Murder
Premeditated, intentional, or deliberate murder is what is considered first-degree murder in North Carolina. The use of chemical or biological weapons, poison, torture, or lying in wait are all instances of criminal conduct that are considered first-degree murder.
Further, there is an automatic presumption that the murder was willful, deliberate, and conducted with malice when the person slain was the spouse, former spouse, or romantic partner of the defendent. If the defendant was previously convicted of a domestic violence crime, violated a domestic violence protection order, or stalked or threatened the victim, the crime will also be charged as first-degree murder.
Felony murder is a form of first-degree murder in which a person is killed while a felony offense is taking place. An accomplice who did not perform the killing, or a person who shot someone on accident when committing a criminal act, may end up charged with felony murder. Arson, burglary, kidnapping, rape, robbery, and sex offenses are a few of the felony acts that can lead to this criminal charge if someone is killed.
Second Degree Murder
The lack of premeditation is what differentiates second-degree murder from first-degree murder in North Carolina. To put it another way, the state does not have to show that the defendant intended to end the life of the victim prior to the act or behavior that caused their death.
Instead, if a person kills another person knowingly, but it wasn’t planned ahead of time, they may be charged with second-degree murder. The same goes for if a person kills another person while performing a known risky behavior or acts in a reckless and wanton manner that shows a lack of respect for human life.
Other instances that may lead to a second degree murder conviction is when a person illegally gives opioids, methamphetamines, cocaine, or other narcotics to another person and that person dies from using the drugs. In addition, second degree murder charges also arise when a person injures an unborn child and the child initially survives but later dies as a result of the injuries.
Types of Manslaughter Charges in North Carolina
In North Carolina, the main difference between manslaughter and homicide charges is that manslaughter is not committed with malice. However, it is still a very serious crime. There are several types of manslaughter, just as there are several types of murder. These include:
- Voluntary Manslaughter – The intentional killing of a person in circumstances where a reasonable person would become emotionally or mentally disturbed is known as voluntary manslaughter. A person could be charged with this offense if he killed someone in a fit of rage or in an imperfect self-defense circumstance in which he believed force was essential to defend himself, but was not objectively justifiable.
- Involuntary Manslaughter – This crime involves an unintentional murder committed without intent and without the element of “the heat of passion.” Rather, you may be charged with this offense if you were criminally negligent, engaged in reckless conduct, or were committing a non-felony crime at the time of the killing.
- Vehicular Manslaughter – If you murdered someone with a vehicle due to your negligent or reckless acts, you could be charged with this crime. Vehicular manslaughter often results from driving under the influence (DUI).
What are the Penalties for Murder and Manslaughter in North Carolina?
The severity of your penalty is determined by the specific details surrounding the crime. Aggravating elements, such as the case of a particularly heinous offense, will enhance your sentence, while mitigating factors will lessen it. The following are some of the possible punishments for a manslaughter or murder conviction:
- First-degree murder: Class A felony with a punishment of death by lethal injection or life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.
- Second-degree murder: Class B1 felony with a punishment of 192 months to life in prison OR a Class B2 felony with a minimum punishment of 125 months imprisonment.
- Felony murder: Class A felony with a punishment of death by lethal injection or life imprisonment with no possibility of parole
- Voluntary manslaughter: Class D felony with a minimum punishment of 51 months imprisonment.
- Involuntary manslaughter: Class F felony with a minimum punishment of 13 months imprisonment.
- Vehicular manslaughter: Class F felony with a minimum punishment of 13 months imprisonment.
The State’s Burden in Proving a First-Degree Murder Charge
Under North Carolina law, the state must present evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person is guilty of first-degree murder.
This means that the prosecutor must show the defendant had the mental state indicated by the law and committed the murder with intent, willfulness, or premeditation.
As a result, the state must show that the defendant intended to kill the victim and that the defendant planned their actions ahead of committing the murder. The state cannot prove guilt of first-degree murder if it cannot prove any of these factors.
What are Some Defenses to Murder Charges?
There are ways to present a defense in a murder case that can help protect your rights and ensure a fair outcome, even if you are facing a particularly tough case against you. Understanding all of the evidence surrounding the victim’s death and your alleged role in it is one of the most important components of preparing a solid defense.
Looking at the actions of law enforcement officers during the investigation can possibly reveal grounds for dismissing the case or reducing the charges. If the police violate due process standards, such as not questioning you without reasonable suspicion or searching your home without a warrant, it could be used by an experienced NC homicide lawyer to have any evidence gathered thrown out due to police misconduct.
Mistaken identity, self-defense/defense of others, unintentional killing, insanity, and a lack of evidence are some other common defenses to murder allegations.
Self-defense, or the defense of others, occurs when a defendant has an imminent and reasonable concern for his or her safety. This happens to be the most common legal defense for a murder. To win a self-defense case, the defendant must show that they didn’t initiate the incident, but rather, they were threatened with harm and only acted to protect themselves or others. The amount of force used in reaction to protect yourself from a threat must also be proportionate to the perceived threat, and the timing between the threat and the actions performed in response to it must be relatively short.
Prosecutors must present an abundance of evidence to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. According to criminal law, the case may not proceed if there is a lack of evidence that clearly indicates the defendant committed the crime in question.
Defendants may sometimes plead mistaken identity in first-degree murder prosecutions, as well as other homicide offenses. This indicates that the prosecutor’s case is against the wrong person and that the alleged crime was committed by someone else.
A defendant arguing mistaken identity can support their claim with evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s case.
Common Tactics for Mistaken Identity Defense
- Establishing an alibi, which is a defense that proves you were somewhere else at the time of the crime’s occurrence.
- Demands that the prosecution produce evidence that definitively places the defendant at the crime scene.
- Objecting the validity of the prosecution’s witness testimony and evidence.
- Objecting to the prosecution’s physical evidence.
- Making a case for another possible suspect based on evidence.
A defendant can also present evidence that they did not behave maliciously and the death was caused by an accident. Although the criminal charges may not be dismissed, they may be reduced from first or second-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, which carries significantly less severe criminal penalties.
The allegation of first-degree or second-degree murder applies if the unintentional homicide happened while a crime was being committed or as a result of other criminal actions. As such, accidental killings in the course of lawful operations are not considered homicide. However, they may be charged with manslaughter to some extent.
The insanity defense involves determining criminal liability for people with mental problems. A murder defense lawyer may work to prove that these mental impairments may have caused their defendant to kill someone or rather that they cannot recognize that what they did was wrong.
In addition to these, your murder defense attorney may work to prove that there was illegally obtained evidence, lack of probable cause, false witness testimony, or an infringement of your constitutional rights to help lessen your homicide charges.
Call For an Initial Case Evaluation
A seasoned criminal defense lawyer, like Mr. Wilkie knows what it takes to construct a successful defense that the prosecution simply cannot compete with. Every piece of evidence the prosecution intends to use will be looked over and analyzed for mistakes or inconsistencies. Your criminal lawyer will work tirelessly to gather all available facts, provide unmatched legal advice, and stop at nothing to achieve the best possible conclusion for your case.
If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter, it’s critical that you contact Mr. Wilkie, experienced NC homicide lawyer, as quickly as possible. Mr. Wilkie will investigate the case and create a compelling criminal defense to the allegations you are facing to help negotiate the best possible plea deal, have your case dropped or dismissed, or ultimately prove your innocence.
Hire the Best
Even if you are guilty, an experienced criminal defense attorney like Aden Wilkie may be able to have the charges reduced to a lesser crime. Call 910-333-9626 or fill out the online contact form below to get a consultation with North Carolina criminal defense lawyer Aden Wilkie to discuss your criminal case today.