Homicide is a broad term that generally refers to causing the death of another person without legal justification. Under the Georgia Criminal Code, homicide includes multiple serious criminal offenses that constitute murder or manslaughter. If you face a homicide charge or are under investigation, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. At Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia, our lawyers draw on their extensive experience, knowledge, and skill in aggressively defending clients against all murder and manslaughter charges.
Section 16-5-1 of the Georgia Code establishes the murder offenses, which include malice murder, felony murder, and second degree murder.
Subsection (a) defines the offense of murder, also referred to as malice murder, as causing the death of another person “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied.” Subsection (b) defines express malice as a “deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof.” The subsection also states that implied malice exists “where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.”
Based on the statutory provisions, the element that distinguishes malice murder from other homicide offenses is the requirement for malice. When a person is charged with murder, defending against the crime often focuses on disproving the existence of this element as one of the defense strategies.
Subsection (c) establishes a second type of murder, commonly referred to as felony murder. The provision states that a person who causes the death of another person in the commission of a felony commits the offense of murder “irrespective of malice.”
Felony murder may be charged even though the death occurred completely unintentionally and accidentally or was inflicted by another person during commission of the felony, as long as the death was caused by commission of the felony. In addition, death does not necessarily have to occur immediately. A fatally wounded person who dies sometime after the incident can lead to a felony murder charge, if commission of the felony caused the death.
For a felony murder charge, the defense does not focus on the presence of malice, since that is not an element of this type of murder. Instead, a key issue is whether commission of the felony was the actual and proximate cause of the death. The prosecution must prove causation beyond a reasonable doubt to demonstrate felony murder.
Second Degree Murder
Subsection (d) of the murder statute provides that a person commits murder in the second degree by causing the death of another person during commission of cruelty to children in the second degree. Malice is not a required element for second degree murder.
Penalties for Murder
Subsection (e) provides that a conviction for malice murder or felony murder is punishable “by death, imprisonment for life without parole, or imprisonment for life.” The subsection also states that a conviction for second degree murder is punishable by a prison term of ten to 30 years.
Georgia law provides separate offenses for voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Section 16-5-2 addresses voluntary manslaughter. Section 16-5-3 establishes the offense of involuntary manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person causes the death of another person “under circumstances which would otherwise be murder” if the person “acts solely as the result of a sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person.” The provision includes a caveat that states: “if there should have been an interval between the provocation and the killing sufficient for the voice of reason and humanity to be heard, of which the jury in all cases shall be the judge, the killing shall be attributed to deliberate revenge and be punished as murder.”
Under the statute, voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person intentionally kills someone while under a sudden and violent passion caused by a serious provocation that would create the passion in a reasonable person. However, the conduct does not qualify as voluntary manslaughter if a jury determines that there was a cooling off period after the provocation and before the killing. In that case, the death is attributed to deliberate revenge and constitutes murder.
Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by one to 20 years in prison.
Under the Georgia statute, involuntary manslaughter occurs in two different circumstances: 1) A person causes the unintentional death of another person during commission of a non-felony illegal act, or 2) during commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.
Involuntary manslaughter can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. Felony involuntary manslaughter (unintentional death during a non-felony illegal act) is punishable by one to 10 years in prison. Misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter (unintentional death during a lawful act in an unlawful manner) is punishable by up to twelve months in jail.
Defending Against Georgia Homicide Charges
Regardless of the type of offense, our criminal defense attorneys at Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia know how to defend vigorously against murder and manslaughter charges. The strategy in a particular case depends substantially on the facts and circumstances of the case. Generally, there are several different ways to challenge any homicide charge.
Disproving a necessary element of the offense, as mentioned above, is one way to challenge a homicide charge. Analyzing the evidence in detail can provide a basis for that type of challenge. It is also sometimes possible to undermine the prosecution by questioning the validity of police conduct, the credibility of witnesses, or the reliability of evidence in the case.
Defenses to a homicide charge are complex and require specialized skill and knowledge. Representation by a proven criminal defense attorney is absolutely essential.
Cartersville, Georgia Homicide Defense Lawyer
If you face any type of murder or manslaughter charge, or you are under investigation for a homicide offense, please contact us as soon as possible so we can fully protect your rights and defend against the case. We employ the highest standards in client confidentiality and understand the sensitive and private nature of criminal convictions. You can rest assured that we will handle your case with unparalleled confidentiality, professionalism, and integrity.
Based in Cartersville, we serve clients throughout Bartow County, Cobb County, Cherokee County, Gordon County, Floyd County, and Paulding County. Contact us online or call (770) 382-0984 today to schedule an appointment.