Murder in the Second Degree Explained

Second-degree murder is ordinarily defined as: 1) an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable “heat of passion”; or 2) a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life. Second-degree murder may best be viewed as the middle ground between first degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Some jurisdictions make a distinction between different situations that constitute murder and prosecute the charges differently. These states usually break the crime of murder into first degree murder and second degree murder.

The exact definition of second degree murder varies between jurisdictions, but there are a few common elements that second degree murder shares across jurisdictions. The essential elements of second-degree murder differ from those of first degree murder. The criminal act for both crimes is the same: the killing of another person. What separates the two is the perpetrator’s mental state at the time of the killing.

First degree murder involves a premeditated killing, meaning the killer made a plan to kill the victim and then carried that plan out. Second degree murder does not require premeditation, however. Instead, there are three typical situations that can constitute second degree murder: 1) A killing done impulsively without premeditation, but with “malice aforethought”; 2) A killing that results from an act intended to cause serious bodily harm; or 3) A killing that results from an act that demonstrates the perpetrators “depraved indifference” to human life

Intent to Cause “Serious Bodily Harm”

A second category of acts that constitute second degree murder are acts where the perpetrator intends to cause serious bodily harm with full knowledge that death could result from the act. The killer might not necessarily intend to kill the victim, but knows that death is a likely outcome.

“Depraved Indifference” to Human Life

The final main type of second degree murder occurs when a victim dies as a result of the perpetrator’s depraved indifference to human life. Depraved indifference to human life may be defined differently depending on the jurisdiction, but it generally means that the perpetrator had an utter disregard for the potential damage their actions could cause to other people.

Some states also classify killings that occur during the commission of another felony as second degree murder, although other states characterize these felony murders as murder in the first degree. An individual can be found guilty of felony murder even if he or she didn’t actually kill anyone and only intended to commit the original felony.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

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Self-Defense is an Affirmative Defense

If someone has invaded your home, and you fear great bodily harm or death, then yes — the law will generally protect you if you shoot an intruder. Outside of those very specific circumstances, however, the question is a bit too complicated to provide a black and white answer, especially when you consider the different laws relating to self-defense among the states.

The law gives everyone the right to defend themselves with a reasonable response. This is called self-defense. Self-defense is an affirmative defense to a charged violent crime. This means that if someone is charged with murder, or assault, they can use self-defense as a legal excuse for the conduct if they can prove it in a court of law. For self-defense to apply, a defendant will generally need to show the existence of an immediate threat.

In addition, any force used against an intruder must usually be proportionate to harm that is reasonably perceived. For example, if a burglar were to enter your bedroom with a yellow banana as a weapon, you would probably not be justified in shooting him or her with a 20 gauge shotgun. However, if the burglar were carrying a fake pistol, and you reasonably believed it to be real, you would likely be justified in shooting the intruder.

If you act with a disproportionate response, or believe that banana to be a futuristic space weapon (an unreasonable perception), this becomes what is referred to as imperfect self-defense. This can mitigate the crime you are charged with and usually result in a lesser punishment, although it will not completely excuse the disproportionate response or result in an acquittal at trial.

In many states, there is a duty to retreat to safety, if possible, before using force. However, in many other states, there are “stand your ground” laws that remove the duty to retreat and allow a person to claim self-defense, even if they made no attempt to flee. However, even in “stand your ground” states there is no license to attack without cause, and the rules vary on the ability to use lethal force.

Again, in some states, a person is privileged to use deadly force against anyone who unlawfully enters their home. In these states, there is no need to take the time to assess the intruder’s ability to use deadly or nonlethal force. However, the specifics and applicability vary state to state. If you are uncertain about your state’s rule, it may be advisable to consult with an attorney to learn more.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Restitution Hearing

In the past few weeks, SQ Attorneys has represented individuals in several restitution hearings. Restitution is a payment made by the perpetrator of a crime to the victims of that crime. Judges often order restitution be paid in cases where victims suffered some kind of financial setback as the result of a crime. The payment is meant to make the victims whole and restore them financially to the point they were at prior to the commission of the crime.

For example, a defendant who spray paints the side of a residential home may be ordered to pay restitution to the homeowners upon a guilty conviction. The money could then be used to repaint the home. In another example, a defendant who broke his victim’s arm in an assault may be ordered to compensate the victim for his or her medical expenses.

Judges typically orders restitution as a condition of another sentence such as incarceration or probation, although it is possible to receive a sentence of restitution on its own. States and the federal government have statutes that determine who can receive restitution and how judges can determine the amount that defendants will have to pay. For more information on how restitution works where you live, contact an attorney in your local jurisdiction.

Restitution differs from a fine in that it’s paid to the victims of a crime to compensate them for the injuries they suffered as a result of the crime. A fine, on the other hand, is paid to the government strictly as a punitive measure. While a government can be a victim of a crime for restitution purposes, a fine is not intended to compensate the government for its injuries. Instead, a fine is meant only to punish an offender and deter future criminal behavior.

For example, if a jury convicts a defendant of stealing government property, a judge could order the defendant to pay the government restitution in the amount of the value of the piece of property. In addition, the judge could also fine the defendant in order to punish and deter. The two payments are separate one is to compensate the government for its loss and the other is to punish the perpetrator.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Deferred v. Diversion

Certain types of offenses and defendants may qualify for programs that result in the dismissal of the case against the defendant upon completion of specified conditions. These programs go by several different names, but they all remove the defendant from the ordinary channels of prosecution so that the defendant may complete certain conditions. Once the defendant meets the conditions, either the prosecutor or the court will dismiss the charges.

The goal of this sort of program is to allow the defendant time to rehabilitate themselves and demonstrate that they are capable of behaving responsibly. For so doing, the state or the city rewards the defendant by dismissing the charges.

These programs are typically used for drug or domestic offenses, or for first-time offenders. The conditions imposed typically include some form of counseling and/or probation, and require the defendant to demonstrate good conduct throughout the program.

There are two types of these kinds of programs: those that require the defendant to first plead guilty to the charge and those that do not. The former type is usually known as a deferred sentence in the State of Washington, while the latter category is generally known as pretrial diversion or sometimes known as a Stipulated Order of Continuance (SOC).

Pretrial diversion or SOC removes a defendant from prosecution prior to a guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) plea. In a pretrial diversion the prosecutor halts the case against the defendant so that the defendant can meet certain conditions. These conditions can include probation, counseling and community service, among others.

In most cases, the prosecutor has the discretion to admit a defendant to a pretrial diversion program. A statute will set the eligibility requirements, but a prosecutor will make the ultimate determination about whether or not to allow a defendant to enter into a pretrial diversion program. In some jurisdictions, judges can suggest pretrial diversion for a defendant or have the final say about admitting a defendant to pretrial diversion.

Sometimes prosecutors must get the consent of the victim of the crime before they can put a defendant into pretrial diversion. Certain things, such as previous involvement in a pretrial diversion program, can render a defendant ineligible for pretrial diversion.

In addition, prosecutors will usually require a candidate for pretrial diversion to waive their right to a speedy trial and their protections under the relevant statute of limitations. The length of a pre-trial diversion program varies between states and for felonies and misdemeanors. For misdemeanors, they generally run from six months to 24 months, while felonies generally run for up to five years.

If the defendant fails to meet the conditions of the pretrial diversion program, prosecutors can put the defendant on trial as if no diversion had taken place.

Deferred adjudication begins after a defendant has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere. In this way, it resembles probation, but in most other respects a deferred adjudication proceeds similarly to a pretrial diversion. In addition to deferred adjudication, this sort of program is also known as a stay of adjudication.

Even though the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere in a deferred adjudication, the court will not enter a judgment of guilt. Instead, like a pretrial diversion, the court will lay out a number of conditions that the defendant must meet. If the defendant meets the conditions, the charges are dismissed and the defendant will not have a record of conviction.

If, on the other hand, the defendant does not satisfy the conditions, the court will enter a judgment and determine a punishment. At this point, the defendants record will show a conviction.

The main difference between a deferred adjudication and a pretrial diversion is that, in a deferred adjudication, a defendant must first plead guilty or nolo contendere. This means that, if the defendant does not fulfill the conditions of the deferred adjudication, the state does not have to put the defendant back on trial for the crime. Instead, the court simply enters its judgment and sentence.

In a pretrial diversion, if the defendant fails to meet the conditions of the program, the state must then place the defendant on trial since there was no prior guilty plea.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Posting Bail

Upon an arrest, most people have one thing going through their minds, and that is how or when they will be released? This is generally accomplished by posting “bail,” which usually consists of cash or a piece of property with cash value that you give to the court in return for your promise to show up to court when ordered to do so. If you do, the court will return your bail. However, if you don’t show up, the court will keep your bail and most likely issue an arrest warrant, meaning you’ll likely end up back in jail.

If you have been arrested, you will want to know your bail amount as soon as possible. If you are  not able to see a judge right away, you could end up spending some time in jail, usually a weekend. In fact, this is sometimes a tactic used by the police as they will arrest you on Friday, meaning that the earliest you could see a judge to set bail is Monday. However, for some of the more common crimes, jails often have a chart setting standard bail amounts which means getting out is a simple matter of paying the fixed amount.

The Eighth Amendment establishes that no person can have an excessive bail amount set against them. This has been held to mean that bail cannot be used as a way for the government to raise money or to punish a person for being arrested. The Eight Amendment therefore ensures that bail is only used as a guarantee that an arrested person comes back to court at the appointed time. The bail amount cannot be more than is reasonable to accomplish that purpose.

Despite the theory behind the Eighth Amendment, judges often use excessively high bail amounts to prohibit an arrested individual from getting out of jail. This type of excessive bail is often used for people that have been arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs, murder or other crimes where flight is a real possibility. Many people have argued that this type of high bail violates the Eighth Amendment, but almost all have been unsuccessful.

There are also situations in which bail is set at a reasonable amount, but the arrestee still cannot afford to make the payment. When this happens, the arrested individual must wait to ask the judge to lower the bail amount at a special bail hearing or during the defendant’s first court appearance. Depending upon your financial situation, the judge may decide to lower your bail amount, which could make it easier to get out of jail.

Posting bail can be done in several different ways. The most common methods of posting bail is: 1) paying cash or check for the full bail amount; 2) signing over ownership rights to propery; 3) Giving a bond (a promise to pay if you don’t appear) in the full amount of your bail; or 4) Signing a statement that says you will appear in court at the required time, generally called being released on your own recognizance or “O.R.”

Generally, if you can be released on your own recognizance, you should try to take that option. However, many people are forced to purchase a bail bond in order to get released from jail. A bond is much like a check that you give to a friend, asking him or her not to cash it until you say it’s okay to do so. Generally, the purchase price of the bond is about 10% of the value. Therefore, if your bail is set at $5000, you can expect to pay about $500 in order to purchase a bail bond.

 

You should avoid purchasing a bail bond, whenever possible. If you appear at court and meet all the requirements, you usually get the full amount of your bail returned to you (minus some small, administrative fees from the court). However, if you buy a bail bond, you’re already out 10% of your bail amount (this is generally not refundable), and you’ll also probably have to give the bail bondsman some collateral in order to get the bond (such as an interest in your car or home). If you fail to appear in court at a required time, the bondsman can cash in on the collateral, meaning that he or she could sell your property and take the money from the sale.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.