In this article, you can learn about:
- The different levels of murder in Virginia, and how they are classified.
- At what point in a murder case the charges are determined.
- Why you should hire an attorney for your homicide case – even if you have not yet been arrested.
What Is The Legal Definition Of Murder In Virginia? What Are The Degrees Of Murder Charges I Could Face?
In Virginia, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another. All murder in Virginia is presumed to start at the level of second-degree murder. There are four levels of murder charges: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.
First-degree murder is willful and deliberate, premeditated murder. If you think about the homicide in advance, the fact that it is willful, deliberate, and premeditated elevates it to first-degree murder. First-degree murder is a charge that carries a sentence of 20 years to life.
Second-degree murder is a charge that carries five years to 40 years of prison time. Second-degree murder is generally a malicious, unjustified killing of another person, but without the premeditation aspect of first-degree murder.
Voluntary Manslaughter is the third category of murder charge. If you have killed someone in a sudden heat of passion or because of a provocation, that makes it manslaughter rather than murder. However, even when the malicious intent is removed, it’s still an intentional, unlawful killing of another person.
Involuntary Manslaughter focuses on a gross and reckless disregard for human life. This is a charge that’s frequently used in DUI-related killings and similar situations.
The sentences vary depending on the charges. Voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter are punished as class-five felonies, which means they carry the possibility of one year to 10 years in prison. Second and first-degree murder charges carry significantly harsher penalties in Virginia.
What Is The Difference Between Murder And Manslaughter In Virginia?
When talking about murder and manslaughter, the difference focuses on malice. Between first-degree and second-degree, it is the willful, deliberate intent – if you think about and intend to commit the murder beforehand, that elevates the murder to the first degree. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean you had to have planned it for a long time. The law essentially states that thinking about murder and then doing it can occur in an instant.
Second-degree murder is a malicious killing. The difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter is the removal of the malice. If you committed a murder, but you were extremely angry in the course of it, that could potentially change the murder from a second-degree homicide to voluntary manslaughter. For example, the killing may have been because of a fight, or you were extremely afraid due to threats.
Naturally, murder convictions carry a significantly steeper punishment than manslaughter convictions. Prison time for a second-degree murder ranges from five years to 40 years, versus one year to 10 years for voluntary manslaughter.
How And When Are Murder Charges And Punishments Determined?
If you or someone you love has been associated with a murder, you are likely feeling anxious and you may be wondering how the charges will be determined. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can give you the best outcome and help you minimize your sentence and understand the trial process.
The degree of murder is determined based on the investigation by law enforcement at the time of the murder. Law enforcement will look at the evidence of the scene, interview witnesses, and decide to charge the crime. Additionally, investigators will often consult with the commonwealth attorney, or the prosecutor, to determine what type of homicide they will charge.
Generally, prosecutors will try to charge the highest degree of homicide that they think they can prove. For instance, if they think it is between first-degree and second-degree, they will probably charge first-degree homicide. This gives them more options in terms of what they can prove in trial.
If I Suspect I May Be Arrested For A Murder Investigation, Will Hiring An Attorney Now Make Me Look Guilty?
It is incredibly important to have the assistance of an attorney with experience in these kinds of cases if an investigation is going on. If you believe that you are a suspect or could be arrested in a homicide investigation, you should hire an attorney immediately. This is not a matter of whether or not you will look guilty, it is about putting yourself in the best position to deal with a very serious criminal charge.
You should be aware that if law enforcement comes into contact with you before you have a lawyer present, you should not make any statements. You should inform them that you want to speak with a lawyer, and then refrain from talking.
It’s important to hire a lawyer for many reasons. Firstly, a lawyer can talk to the investigating detective and get information about the case. A lawyer can also make sure that before you talk to law enforcement, you have a good sense of what will occur and you’re prepared ahead of time. Additionally, if you have not been arrested yet, a lawyer can help coordinate being able to turn yourself in without any threat of violence or harm.
If My Loved One Was Arrested On A Murder Charge In Virginia, Will They Be Released On Bond Or Bail?
If your loved one was arrested for first-degree or second-degree murder, or another charge with bond, the judge will be looking at whether that person is a flight risk or a danger to the community. When a person is charged with murder, the prosecutor likely sees them as both a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Because the person is facing a significant sentence if they are convicted, the prosecutor is likely to argue that your loved one is not likely to come to court. However, the argument that is usually most compelling to the judges is whether or not that person is a danger to the community.
If someone has been killed and your loved one was arrested, evidence has been found that they are connected in some way to the murder and could pose a threat to the community. Because of this, it is very difficult to get someone charged with murder out on bond – but it is not impossible.
In some cases, I have been able to convince a judge to give my client a bond when they have been charged with homicide. In fact, I currently have a homicide case where my client is out on bond.
If someone you love has been arrested for murder charges, you should know that it is challenging to convince a judge to let someone out on bond with a charge as serious as a homicide. However, your best chance of obtaining a bail or bond release is to hire an experienced attorney to help you with your case.
For more information on Facing Murder Charges In The State Of Virginia, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (804) 621-0854 today.