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The prosecution will file homicide charges when a defendant’s actions caused or contributed to a death, even if accidental. More than any other type of charge, the unique facts of each case means that a lawyer must scrutinize all evidence carefully to develop the best defense. A poor defense can cost the defendant the rest of his life.

In a homicide case, a guilty plea to the top count is almost always a bad idea. The different levels of charges, based on the defendant’s actions and state of mind, allow for an effective lawyer to argue for a dismissal of the top counts, leaving only the lesser offenses.  If the defense lawyer can convince the judge and the jury that the evidence only supports manslaughter, the judge will dismiss the higher charge or the jury will acquit.

The defendant’s state of mind will determine the charges (examples below). An intentional or depraved homicide will lead to a murder charge. The prosecution may bring a Felony Murder charge if a separate crime, such as a robbery, results in a death.  If a defendant acted impulsively under extreme emotions, a charge may be reduced to Voluntary Manslaughter.  In an accidental death, the prosecution will charge Involuntary Manslaughter, Vehicular Manslaughter, or Criminally Negligent Homicide. The sentences for each homicide level vary dramatically, and the top counts may result in a life sentence.

To prepare the best defense, a lawyer must investigate each element of the charge and argue against it. How did the victim die? Did the defendant actually cause the death? What role did the victim’s health play in the death? Did the defendant act in self-defense? Does the defendant have an alibi? Did the police obtain evidence without a warrant? Did the police violate other procedural rules?

The investigation of a homicide is a painstaking process, but it is necessary for an effective defense. Regardless of whether the defendant’s actions caused the death of a person, an effective lawyer will fight for a dismissal or a reduction of charges. In a high stakes homicide case, a poor defense can lead to an unjust prison sentence.

Legal Strategies

The unique facts of a homicide case require the lawyer and the client to plan an overall defense strategy right from the beginning.  A consistent strategy will ease the severity of the charges and may lead to dismissal.

First Degree Murder is the highest felony charge with the most severe sentence and little chance of eventual parole. The law severely punishes the “coldest” murders, which includes preplanned murder, murder for hire, and murder of a police officer or public official. In these cases, a defense lawyer may pursue a number of strategies based on the facts of a case. A lawyer may try to prove that a client was not at the crime scene during the murder (an alibi defense) and to present evidence of other possible suspects. In cases where the defendant admits to causing a person’s death, the lawyer may call eyewitnesses and psychiatrists to prove extreme emotional disturbance to reduce the charges and the sentence.

Second Degree Murder pertains to an intentionally reckless action that causes a death, commonly known as “depraved indifference” homicide. The prosecution often will charge Second Degree Murder because it covers a broad range of actions, especially in cases of robbery or other crimes gone wrong, which results in a death (also known as Felony Murder). A minimum sentence is 15 years in prison.

Voluntary Manslaughter covers “crimes of passion” or crimes committed in an unusual mental state caused by stress, intoxication, or extreme emotional disturbance. In the classic example, a husband walks into his bedroom and sees another man with his wife, and in a fit of rage he bashes the man’s head with a lamp. In a murder case, the defense lawyer may try to argue for a manslaughter charge to shield a client from a life sentence. A minimum sentence is 8 1/3 years in prison.

Involuntary Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide cover a narrow range of situations based on very specific criteria. Most Vehicular Manslaughter cases fall into one of these categories. Other cases may involve parental neglect. A minimum sentence may be one year in jail or less.

For general information about successful defense strategies at every stage of a case, see the criminal cases section.

Press and News Coverage

A homicide case will attract newspaper and television coverage. An effective lawyer will protect a client from reporters and will release favorable press releases. The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua will use prior journalism and editorial experience to provide a balanced approach toward reporters and to protect a client from bad press.  A lawyer with journalism and editing experience, as well as newspaper connections, will ensure that the client’s story is told to the public while protecting the client's privacy.

When a prosecutor is threatening a life sentence, do not rely on a second-rate defense.  The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua will provide the most effective defense possible and will charge reasonable flat fees based on the nature of the case.  A flat fee determined up front will prevent the surprises and the high costs of hourly billing, allowing the lawyer and the client to focus entirely on the defense strategy.  

Contact the Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua at (917) 656 - 7076 or bevelacqualaw@gmail.com and speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately.