Being charged with murder is one of the highest level crimes that you can be accused of committing in Virginia. In addition, the penalties are the harshest—up to life in prison or the death penalty. However, you may have strong defenses to these charges.
Common Murder Charges in Virginia
There are a number of crimes that you can be charged with for killing another person in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The most common murder crimes include:
- Capital murder. Capital murder is the willful, intentional, and premeditated killing of another person and can include a murder when committing crimes, such as rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery. The penalty can be the death penalty or life in prison.
- First-degree murder. First-degree murder is the killing of someone not in a manner that constitutes capital murder. First-degree murder is a killing that is intentional, deliberate, and premeditated, was done by poisoning, or was committed while committing other crimes, such as rape, robbery, or abduction. The punishment can include up to life in prison.
- Second-degree murder. A person can be charged with second-degree murder for all other murders that are not considered capital or first-degree murder. Upon conviction, the penalty may be a prison sentence of 5 to 40 years.
Defenses to Murder Charges
Depending on your situation, you may have a number of defenses that you can use to fight a murder charge. It is essential to use any defenses you have given the harsh consequences you face if you are convicted. Common defense strategies that are used in these cases include:
- Mistaken identity. In some cases, the police charge the wrong person either because they look similar to the real culprit or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Another way to use the mistaken identity defense is to prove that another individual—and not you—committed the murder.
- Self-defense. If you were attacked or were threatened when you killed someone, you may be able to raise self-defense as a defense. In Virginia, the amount of force you use must be reasonable in relation to the danger you faced.
- Defense of others. If you were trying to protect another person from a perceived threat or attack, defense of others may be a strategy you can use. As with self-defense, the amount of force you used must have been reasonable.
- Accident. To be convicted of murder, the prosecutor must prove that the murder was intentional and premeditated. Depending on your situation, you may be able to argue that the murder was accidental.
- Alibi. If you claim that you were in another location at the time of the murder and have eye witnesses or other strong evidence establishing where you were, you may be able to raise the alibi defense. In Virginia, you may need to give notice of this defense to the prosecutor.
- Constitutional challenges. You have strong protections under the U.S. Constitution when arrested for murder or other crimes. If your constitutional rights were violated, key evidence may not be used against you or the charges against you may be dismissed. Some defenses may include failure to give you your Miranda rights or obtaining evidence through an unreasonable search and seizure.
Let Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Help You Build a Strong Defense
If you have been arrested for murder, your life and freedom are on the line. You must retain an attorney experienced in murder defense immediately to build the strongest defense possible to the charges you face. At Greenspun Shapiro PC, our skilled lawyers have decades of experience helping individuals charged with murder and other offenses achieve the best possible outcome. We are not afraid to take your case to trial if this is in your best interest.
We represent clients facing criminal charges in Fairfax, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. To find out about our extensive experience in cases like yours and how we can assist you, call our office to schedule your free consultation today.