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Defense options for first-degree murder charges

As a previous post highlighted, the negligence or recklessness of an individual could result in serious criminal charges. While not willful, an individual could face manslaughter charges for the death of an individual. On the other hand, a person could be accused of intentionally killing another, resulting in murder charges.

In order to understand how best to defend yourself against first-degree murder charges, one must be aware of the defense strategies available to defendants. A criminal defense for a first-degree murder charge can fall in one of two categories. Either the defendant claims that he or she did not commit the alleged killing, or the defendant admits to the killing; however asserts that it is not first-degree murder.

Those admitting to the killing of a victim are able to assert various defenses. This includes self-defense and incapacitation. These defense options require a defendant to put forth evidence to prove or support his or her defense claim. One may also assert a defense that argues that the prosecution has not proven all the elements of first-degree murder charge, which typically means that the accused killed the victim willfully, deliberately and with premeditation.

A defendant can argue mistaken identity, which asserts that the prosecution has charged the wrong person. One could also assert a justified homicide, which means self-defense was reasonable to use in the situation that resulted in the death of the attacker. Another defense option is claiming it was an accident or misfortune that caused the death of another. However, such instance could result in liability for manslaughter. Finally, a defendant could assert an insanity defense. This relies on a defendant being able to prove that they cognitively couldn't appreciate the quality of the act committed or realize that the act was wrong.

No matter which defense option a defendant chooses, it is vital that defendants fully understand the charges they face, the situation that led to the charges and what penalties he or she could face. This information could help one develop the best defense for his or her situation.

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J. Dean Keegan and Thomas D. Farnsworth, Attorneys at Law
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