Homicide charges are the most severe charges a person can face in Louisiana, a state which supports capital punishment. A person being investigated for murder may feel like all hope is lost, that no matter what kind of defense can be put together, he or she will face insurmountable consequences. While it is true that a murder conviction can lead to decades of imprisonment or even death, there is much a knowledgeable and experienced murder defense attorney in Louisiana can do to challenge the charges facing a defendant. It’s important not to give up hope but rather to fight, and fight hard.
If you face first-degree or second-degree murder charges in Louisiana, you may not fully understand the difference; where is the threshold at which a crime becomes a second-degree or first-degree crime? How do penalties differ from one to the other? These are important questions to address with your criminal defense lawyer, who will investigate the evidence the prosecution has against you to understand if these charges are truly warranted.
A Close Look at First-Degree Murder
The Louisiana State Legislature defines first-degree murder as the killing of another person with intent while committing specified felonies. Evidence for the commission of several violent felonies may support a first-degree murder charge. Such felonies include:
- Aggravated or forcible rape
- Aggravated arson
- Aggravated burglary
- Aggravated and second-degree kidnapping
- Aggravated escape
- Assault by drive-by shooting
- Cruelty to juveniles
Additionally, an offender who has specific intent to kill certain types of people, including the following, may face a first-degree murder charge:
- Civilian employees of forensic laboratories
- Taxicab drivers
- People under twelve or people sixty-five years of age or older
- Jail or prison guards
- Parole and probation officers
- Attorney generals
- Assistant attorney generals
- Attorney general investigators
- District attorneys
- Assistant district attorneys
- District attorney investigators
- Any local or state policeman engaged in the performance of his lawful duties.
Offenders who kill multiple people or who kill those who were witnesses to past crimes or victims who were related to witnesses of past crimes may also face first-degree murder charges.
Examining Murder in the Second Degree
Second-degree murder is the killing of another person when the offender intends to kill the victim. An offender who kills someone without specific intent while he commits a felony or while he is attempting to commit a felony can also face a second-degree murder charge. The felonies that apply are the same as the felonies listed above that lead to first-degree murder charges.
An offender may also face a second-degree murder charge for delivering a toxic dose of a controlled substance when the dose he delivered kills the consumer.
Penalties for First- and Second-Degree Murder
The main difference between a first-degree murder conviction and a second-degree murder conviction is that a conviction for first-degree murder can lead to the death penalty should the jury decide it is an appropriate punishment. Otherwise, both offenses will lead to life imprisonment with hard labor and without the benefit of having the sentence suspended.
Talk to a skilled criminal defense lawyer like Eric G. Johnson of The John D. & Eric G Johnson Law Firm about your murder charges the moment you suspect you might be under investigation by state or federal authorities. Eric is a problem solver who has tried many cases at the state and federal levels, including all kinds of murder cases throughout Louisiana. Call 318-377-1555 for a free consultation or contact the firm online.