Murder & Assault Offenses
When arrested and charged with Murder, Attempted Murder, and Aggravated Assault, you need counsel to aggressively develop your defense as soon as possible. In Pennsylvania, you will be detained without bail upon arrest for Murder. Similarly, in cases of Attempted Murder or Aggravated Assault, the government will seek to have the court impose a very high bail. Your counsel must quickly identify and develop a defense strategy so that a reasonable and just bail is imposed. Otherwise, you will be spending your time in jail waiting for your day in court. Further, counsel must speak to potential defense witnesses and locate any exculpatory evidence. Eyewitnesses, surveillance camera footage, DNA, and other scientific evidence can often be used to cast doubt upon the veracity of the government’s witnesses. Delay may lead to loss of such evidence. Your counsel must ensure that any evidence that the government intends to use against you was not obtained in violation of your constitutional rights. Successful motions to suppress physical evidence, statements, and identifications can substantially weaken the government’s case or, in some cases, lead to the entire case being withdrawn. In Pennsylvania, a person can be charged with first, second, or third-degree murder. First-degree murder is the most serious, as the only penalty possible after a first-degree murder conviction is life in prison (without the possibility of parole) or death. First-degree murder in Pennsylvania is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated. Second-degree murder is defined as an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, caused while in the course of committing a felony. Second-degree murder is commonly referred to as “felony murder.” The punishment for second-degree murder is life in prison (without the possibility of parole). A person commits second-degree murder if any death, even an accidental one, results from the commission of certain violent felonies. For example, if during the commission of a robbery a cashier is shot and killed, the person or persons who committed the robbery may be charged with second-degree murder. The same principle applies to deaths that occur during the commission of such enumerated crimes as burglary, arson, and kidnapping. Third-degree murder is a killing that was not deliberately planned, but was committed with malice. The crime is punishable by up to forty years in prison. Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault are felonies of the first-degree that also carry very serious penalties. The charge of Attempted Murder is, in essence, a failed first-degree murder. If the victim suffers serious bodily injury, the charge of Attempted Murder carries a maximum sentence of forty years in prison. Otherwise, it carries a maximum penalty of twenty years, as does Aggravated Assault.