A Defendant’s Strongest Defense to Homicide Charges

If you or a loved one is accused of any form of homicide or murder, you need the most aggressive, successful, and effective defense possible. Your future is too important to trust a lawyer who is the lowest bidder.

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What Are Homicide Charges

Before looking at defenses to murder charges, someone must understand what homicide charges are. Homicide charges are taken very seriously and are categorized based on the circumstances and severity of the offense. Here are the main types of homicide charges in Michigan:

  • First-Degree Murder: This is the most severe homicide charge. It involves premeditated killing or murder committed during the commission of certain felonies. It’s punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
  • Second-Degree Murder: This involves a non-premeditated killing resulting from an individual’s intent to do serious bodily harm or reckless disregard for life. The penalty can be life imprisonment or any term of years, but parole is possible.
  • Felony Murder: This is a form of first-degree murder and occurs when a death results from the commission of certain felonies, like arson, rape, robbery, or burglary, regardless of intent to kill.
  • Manslaughter: This is the unlawful killing of another without malice or premeditation. It can be voluntary, where the killing happens in the heat of passion or due to adequate provocation, or involuntary, where the killing is unintentional but results from a reckless act. The penalty can be up to 15 years in prison.
  • Negligent Homicide: This involves the death of an individual due to the defendant’s criminal negligence or reckless behavior. It’s considered a less severe charge compared to manslaughter and is often punishable by shorter prison terms or fines.

The exact charges and potential penalties can vary based on the specific circumstances of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, and other factors. Legal representation is crucial for anyone facing these charges, as the legal system surrounding homicide cases is complex, and the stakes are incredibly high.

Defenses to Murder Charges in Michigan

Legal defenses to murder charges are strategies used by defense attorneys to challenge the prosecution’s case, with the goal of reducing the defendant’s culpability or achieving an acquittal. The specific defense strategy chosen often depends on the facts of the case, the evidence available, and the applicable laws. Here are some defenses to murder charges used by the Defense Team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.:

  • Self-Defense: Claiming that the killing was justified because it was necessary to protect oneself (or another person) from a real and immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm. The use of force must be reasonable and proportionate to the threat.
  • Defense of Others: Similar to self-defense, but the defendant claims they were protecting another person from immediate harm.
  • Accident: Arguing that the death was accidental and not intended or foreseeable. This defense may be used if the defendant had no intent to harm or was engaged in a lawful activity at the time of the death.
  • Insanity: Claiming that the defendant was legally insane at the time of the crime and unable to understand the nature of their actions or differentiate between right and wrong. This defense is complex and requires substantial medical and psychological evidence.
  • Mistaken Identity: Asserting that the defendant was not the person who committed the crime. This defense often relies on alibis or evidence that points to someone else as the perpetrator.
  • Intoxication: Arguing that the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated or so intoxicated that they could not form the intent necessary to commit murder. This defense is not often successful, especially if the intoxication was voluntary.
  • Involuntary Intoxication: Asserting that the defendant was intoxicated against their will or without their knowledge, affecting their capacity to understand or control their actions.
  • Withdrawal from Participation in a Crime: Arguing that the defendant withdrew from participating in a crime before it was committed and possibly tried to prevent it.
  • Lack of Intent, Planning, or Premeditation: Demonstrating that the defendant did not have the required intent to commit murder. This might involve showing that the act was not premeditated or deliberate.

Each of these defenses has its complexities and requirements for proof. An effective defense often relies on a thorough investigation, expert testimony, and skilled legal argumentation. It’s crucial for anyone facing murder charges to seek competent legal counsel to navigate these intricate legal waters.

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Durress as a Defense to Murder

Finding defenses to murder charges is challenging for a criminal defense attorney. In the recent case of People v Blue, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that duress is not a defense to murder charges or assault to commit murder. Ms. Blue argued that she should have been allowed a jury instruction on the defense of duress because her allegedly abusive boyfriend told her to commit the crimes. The Court of Appeals disagreed.

Duress is an affirmative defense based on the idea that, as a matter of policy, a person should choose to violate the criminal law to avoid the greater danger threatened by the other person. To use this defense, a defendant has to produce some evidence of all of the following: (1) that the threats were sufficient for a reasonable person to fear death or serious bodily harm, (2) that the threats did cause such fear in the mind of the defendant, (3) the fear or duress was operating upon the mind of the defendant at the time of the alleged crime, and the defendant committed the act to avoid the threatened harm. Additionally, the threats must be impending; a threat of future harm is insufficient.

It is well established in Michigan law that duress is not a valid defense to a murder charge because “one cannot submit to coercion to take the life of a third person, but should risk or sacrifice his own life instead.” People v Dittis, 157 Mich App, 38l 403 NW2d 94 (1987); People v Gimotty, 216 Mich App 254; 549 NW2d 39 (1996).

Duress remains a valid defense to countless other felony and misdemeanor offenses in Michigan.

The best Michigan criminal defense lawyer is experienced, creative, and aggressive.

A tenacious criminal defense attorney has the power to achieve a more favorable result for their clients than appointed attorneys, general practice lawyers, or ‘plea lawyers.’ When you face criminal charges and a possible loss of freedom, you should have legal representation that is not afraid to push the envelope. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are those attorneys. If you face homicide charges, we can answer your questions regarding defenses to murder charges and work with you to develop a winning strategy.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defense specialists – creative, new, and cutting-edge defense techniques

The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are creative and forward-thinking in representing their clients. They are not afraid to shake up the status quo and introduce new and innovative ideas to prosecutors and courts to zealously represent their clients. If you are charged with a crime and facing a possible loss of freedom, you should have legal representation that always considers a better way of handling a matter to benefit you. The defense team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. is constantly considering new and better ways of defending their clients.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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