Laws on homicide in Virginia are found in Section 18.2-30, and the only common-law crime is manslaughter. Murder laws in the first-degree, second-degree murder, and capital murder are all found in Title 18.2, Chapter 4. The definition and possible penalties of the crimes against another person are clearly provided in these sections.
It is common for accused persons to worry when charged with these crimes because the penalties are pretty serious—but knowing what the law says concerning the crime you have been accused of puts you in a better position. A Fairfax criminal defense attorney can help you understand your charges, fight them, and get the best outcomes.
Is Vehicular Homicide that Serious?
If you drove a vehicle in a way that caused the death of another person, you can be charged with negligent or vehicular homicide. The prosecution has to prove that:
- You disregarded the safety of others
- Failed to exercise the care that a reasonable person would
- You knowingly did something that poses a danger to others
- You knew that your actions were dangerous but went ahead with it anyway
Notably, it isn’t enough for the prosecution to simply say that you drove recklessly and someone also died. The two have to be directly linked for a conviction to happen. If you are found guilty, you risk:
- License revocation for up to a year
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to a year in jail
A year of your life, a year without driving, and $1,000 off your savings are a big deal. You can avoid these repercussions with the help of a Fairfax violent crimes attorney.
What Happens if One is Found Guilty of Second-Degree Murder?
If someone has died and the incident doesn’t qualify as capital or first-degree murder, the incident can be classified under second-degree murder. Examples include:
- Accidental killings happening during an actual or attempted felony that is not robbery, burglary, abduction, or arson;
- Killings done with a “depraved mind” and disregard for human life;
- Killings done with intent to kill or injure;
- Killings out of malice under the heat of the moment, without premeditation;
- Killing out of extreme recklessness.
Convicts of this type of homicide attract severe, life-changing penalties. It is punishable with:
- Fines of up to $100,000
- Prison term of between 5 years and 40 years
It is possible to fight second-degree murder charges with defenses like intoxication, insanity, self-defense, defense of others, or mistake of fact. If the charges can’t be dropped, a Fairfax violent crimes attorney can negotiate to reduce them to a less-penalized offense such as manslaughter.
What are the Consequences of First-Degree Murder?
Whether the killing was accidental or intentional, one can face the consequences of first-degree murder if they are successfully convicted. Understanding what amounts to murder in the first degree is important. It constitutes killings done in the following ways:
- Through starvation, imprisonment, lying in wait, or poison
- Premeditated, deliberate, or willful
- In the commission or attempted felony offense, such as abduction, burglary, robbery, arson, forcible sodomy, rape, animate or inanimate sexual penetration
Remember, if the killing happens during the commission of a less serious felony, the convict might not face the same serious consequences. Instead, they could be charged with felony homicide, which is less serious. That is why it is advisable to retain a Fairfax homicide defense attorney as soon as you are arrested – to make sure that you are not charged for the wrong offense.
Convicts of first-degree felony murder get the second-most serious penalties after convicts of capital murder. As a Class 2 felony, you risk dealing with:
- 20 years to life in prison
- Fines of up to $100,000
Defenses of insanity, mistaken identity, self-defense, or defense of others can save you from prison and fines. But only if the defense is handled by a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax, VA.
What Happens if One is Charged with Capital Murder?
Capital murders carry the highest form of penalties because it is done on purpose and is pre-planned. Here are some of the killings that are considered capital murder:
- Killings in a drug distribution crime
- Multiple murders
- Killing by a prisoner
- The killing of a law enforcement officer
- The killing of a child below 14 years by an adult older than 21
- Contract killing
People that are found guilty of this crime risk the highest form of punishment. This includes:
- Up to $100,000 in fines
- Death penalty
- Life imprisonment for offenders below 18 years
Based on how serious capital murder is, you cannot afford to navigate it by yourself. You will need representation in a plea bargain, in court, or an appeal if necessary. Make sure that you call the right attorney to represent you throughout the case.
How is Fetal Homicide Punished in Virginia?
You will have committed a Class 2 felony in Virginia if you deliberately, willfully, unlawfully, or maliciously with premeditation kill a fetus. Violent acts against a pregnant woman, where a fetus dies, can constitute fetal homicide. And if the mother is killed along with her fetus, the convict might face double penalties for the two murders.
The prosecutor has to bring evidence showing that you knew that the woman was pregnant and intended to terminate the unborn baby’s life. One risks a prison term of between five and 40 years if they are found guilty. And if the perpetrator is above 21 years, the crime can be charged as capital murder.
Learn Your Legal Options from A Veteran Criminal Defense
Homicide crimes carry one of the highest penalties in Virginia. But a charge against you doesn’t have to end with a conviction if you are properly represented. A good number don’t even get to trial when the criminal defense lawyer gives the prosecution enough reasons to drop the charges.
The homicide cases that can’t be dismissed can be negotiated and downgraded to less punitive ones. A success story begins when you call the right attorney. Get in touch with the experienced criminal defense attorney Scott C. Nolan, PLLC. Call us at (703) 223-8883 to book your first case evaluation.