First degree murder is defined as unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Premeditation separates this act from other types of homicides. In the most US states this type of killing is known as unlawful killing which is willful. This means the murderer spends time plotting the act and then executes with careful precaution. In addition, after committing the murder, the perpetrator makes effort to hide the act.
Criminal law divides murder into three different categories, first, second and sometimes even third degree. Normally, to consider a murder as first degree includes three elements, willfulness, deliberation and premeditation. Sometimes malice aforethought is also required for a murder to be considered as first degree. However, the definition of the malice may differ from state to state. Every US states do not divide the murder into separate degrees. Sometimes this is also known as capital murder.
Intent is important. The murderer must have the desire to destroy a human life. The intent need not be targeted at the intended victim. In case the perpetrator ends up killing someone else, the act will be considered as capital murder.
Deliberation is another element that needs to be present for a killing to be considered capital murder. This does not refer to the act of plotting for years. This merely means getting enough time to plan the murder. Without deliberation a homicide will not be considered as capital murder.
Malice aforethought is not required everywhere. However, in some US states this is a necessary element. What does this mean? Malice is nothing but lack of sympathy to human life.
Penalties for First Degree Murder
Such an offense has two possible penalties – death sentence or life imprisonment. However, in some states the death sentence is not applicable. In these states life imprisonment is given for murder. In case the death sentence is not relinquished, the court holds yet another proceeding to determine whether the convicted murder should be given death penalty.
Criminal law is not easy to understand. If you are charged with murder, it is needless to say that you will require solid defense. An established Myrtle Beach criminal lawyer will be able to assist you in this. Murder charge is not something which you will be able to handle without legal assistance. Only an experienced lawyer will be able to prepare the murder defense.
Different Defense Strategies
Sometimes the murder is considered as lawful. If someone gets killed while doing a lawful act, the killing can be considered as justified homicide. Sometimes killing in the matter of passion is also considered as justified killing. This is one of the most common strategies that lawyers use while preparing the defense.
Self defense is another strategy that often time is used as murder defense. However, for this strategy to be effective, the victim must be of health and strength to cause fear for life.
The above mentioned defense is affirmative defense. Here, the perpetrator pleads guilty. However, there is option for pleading not guilty and denying the charge totally. Here, all the lawyer will have to do is prove that you have been present elsewhere while the murder had been committed.