Homicide Charges Demand A Skilled And Proactive Defense
Homicide is an umbrella term for the unlawful killing – intentionally or unintentionally – of another person, covering crimes such as murder, manslaughter, death by delivery of a controlled substance, and death by motor vehicle. These are serious felonies punishable by years to life in prison.
The government is relentless in pursuing these cases and often seeks maximum penalties. If you’ve been charged with homicide in Lapeer County or anywhere in Michigan, it might feel like the system is stacked against you. But you are considered innocent until or unless proven guilty. The prosecution must prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt, and that is where Jocuns Law Firm comes in.
Murder And Manslaughter Charges In Michigan
I am criminal defense attorney Bernard Jocuns. For 20 years, I have been defending the accused, including those accused of the most serious offense of all – causing the death of another person. Michigan law recognizes four main categories of homicide:
- First-degree murder (premeditated)
- Felony murder (in the commission of another crime)
- Second-degree murder (“heat of passion”)
- Manslaughter (reckless or unintentional)
Even the least of these charges carries a prison term upon conviction. Occasionally, you can get the charges lowered, reducing the potential sentence or taking life in prison off the table. But typically, you must either get the charges dismissed or prepare to fight the allegations at trial. I am invigorated by the legal challenge and motivated to fight for my clients’ freedom. You can count on me to dive deeply into the prosecution’s case to identify the weaknesses and develop effective counter strategies.
What Is First-Degree Murder?
Under MCL 750.316, there are several ways a person can be charged with first-degree murder. The most common scenario is the premeditated killing of another person. To prove that the accused willfully and deliberately took someone’s life, the prosecution must establish several elements:
- That the defendant’s actions caused the death
- That they intended to kill
- That they thought about and planned the killing
- That they had no lawfully justifiable reason to bring about the person’s death
First-degree murder charges can also apply to taking the life of a police or corrections officer while they are performing their lawful duties.
What Is Felony Murder?
Taking someone’s life or causing their death while committing another felony crime can also be charged as first-degree murder in Michigan, even if the death was unintentional. For example, felony murder charges might be filed in connection with a robbery or carjacking, a home invasion or burglary, a drug transaction gone awry, a police chase, a kidnapping or torture, a sexual assault or an act of arson.
The prosecutor must prove that the accused caused the person’s death, that they were committing or attempting or aiding a felony crime, and that they intended to kill or cause great bodily harm or engaged in conduct that was reckless or very likely to lead to such a result.
What Is Second-Degree Murder?
Second-degree murder is defined as any murder not falling under the definition of first-degree murder (MCL 750.317). An offense is committed when the defendant caused someone’s death and intended to kill or do great bodily harm or engaged in conduct knowing it would very likely cause death or great bodily harm.
The key difference between first- and second-degree murder is that the latter is not planned in advance but rather committed “in heat of the moment” as during a quarrel or physical altercation. Second-degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison.
What Is Murder By A Controlled Substance?
Under Michigan law, a person can commit a homicide offense when they deliver a schedule 1 or 2 controlled substance to another person. Under MCL 750.317a, charges can be brought when an individual gives a drug to someone else and the consumption of that substance causes the individual’s death. For example, distributing pills laced with fentanyl could be charged as murder if the person overdosed. Death resulting from the delivery of a controlled substance is punishable by up to a life sentence.
What Constitutes Manslaughter In Michigan?
Manslaughter (MCL 750.321) can be voluntary (intentional) or involuntary (unintentional). Voluntary manslaughter involves killing another person without premeditation or justification, though they may still have intended to take the other person’s life or acted with a very high risk of death or great bodily harm. Generally, a person charged with voluntary manslaughter is in a heightened emotional state after being provoked and they act before having time to cool off. Out of passion or anger, they cause the death of another person.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the person causes a death without intending to, through reckless or negligent actions. For example, striking a person in the head during a fight or causing them to fall and hit their head could be charged as manslaughter if the person dies from their injuries.
Vehicular manslaughter refers to reckless operation of a motor vehicle that results in a fatal crash, pedestrian death or other fatality, often in the context of drunk driving.
Manslaughter is punishable by no more than 15 years in prison. Manslaughter cases can be complicated, but as an experienced homicide lawyer, I am ready to take on the challenge.
Building A Defense For Homicide Charges
I do not rely on plea deals to pursue favorable outcomes for my clients. I prepare each case with the mindset of taking it to court. You have the right to defend yourself and fight back against the allegations, and I am very comfortable presenting arguments before a Michigan judge or jury. One misstep in your case could profoundly affect the outcome, so it is crucial to work with a lawyer who has actually tried a murder or manslaughter case to verdict.