The Difference Between 1st, 2nd & 3rd Degree Murder in Pennsylvania

In the criminal justice system, homicide is defined in degrees. The degree depends on how the murder was committed and the intent behind the killing.

First Degree Murder – Murder in the first degree is the most serious crime that a person can commit in Pennsylvania. It involves killing someone with a weapon, bomb, or by poison. The homicide needs to have been committed with intent. This means the killing was intentional, deliberate, willful, and premeditated or planned in advance.

Upon conviction, the penalty for first degree murder is life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Second Degree Murder – Murder in the second degree means that the killing resulted during the commission of a felony. The defendant could be the one who committed the murder or he or she may be an accomplice, but in either case, he or she can be charged with second degree murder. This is known as the Felony-Murder rule.

For example, if a person was robbing a bank and a teller was killed in the process of the robbery, this would be considered second degree murder.

The penalty on conviction of a second degree murder charge is life in prison.

Third Degree Murder – Third degree murder includes all other types of homicides, including murders that were not intentionally maliciously planned. In Pennsylvania the standard sentence for third degree murder ranges from 20-40 years in prison.

Voluntary Manslaughter involves killing in the heat of passion, under extreme provocation, or due to a mistaken belief that legal justification for the killing existed. Penalties upon conviction of voluntary manslaughter can be up to 20 years. This is considered a first-degree felony.

Involuntary Manslaughter occurs when a person’s grossly negligent act or recklessness results in someone else’s death. It is a misdemeanor of the first degree. On conviction, a person may be imprisoned for up to five years.

Contact an Attorney Experienced in Defending Clients Against Murder Charges

If you are facing murder charges, whether first degree or involuntary manslaughter, the sooner you seek counsel of an experienced attorney, the stronger your defense will be. There are ways to exploit the weaknesses of the government’s case against you at every stage of a criminal defense case.

To discuss your case with a skilled, knowledgeable, and focused criminal defense attorney who will put you and your case first, call the Henry Law Firm. We have offices in Philadelphia and Delaware counties, PA, and offer a free, private, consultation during which time you can discuss your case and we will answer your questions.

Please call our toll free number 877-655-1900 or reach us at 215-545-7100 in Philadelphia County, or 610-565-9112 in Delaware County. You can also complete an intake form online and we will contact you.

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