Murder and manslaughter are the most serious charges in Pennsylvania. If you’ve been charged with causing the death of another person, you will need a highly skilled and experienced attorney. A conviction of manslaughter or murder could mean a life imprisonment sentence or even a death sentence, depending on the charge.
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or some other violent crime in Lackawanna County, Luzerne County, Wayne County, Wyoming County or anywhere in Pennsylvania
Located in Scranton and established in 1962, Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano has extensive experience handling cases involving people charged with high-level felonies. We know these cases take a significant amount of time and commitment as well as resources to build a strong case. People facing such high stakes routinely rely on us, because many of our lawyers have worked on both sides of the courtroom. We have a former District Attorney at our law firm.
What’s the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?
The main difference between someone being charged with murder or manslaughter is the intent. If someone accidentally killed another person through his or her actions – or inactions – the state normally charges that person with manslaughter.
If someone intentionally kills another person, the state of Pennsylvania likely will file a murder charge. A murder is a “homicide,” but not all homicides are murder.
Homicide refers to the killing of one person by another person. As a result, homicide can include lawful forms of killing, including killing in self-defense, a soldier killing someone else during war or even the execution of a prisoner on death row by the state.
What are Different Types of Manslaughter and Murder Charges in Pennsylvania?
Manslaughter charges vary, depending on a variety of circumstances. The most common manslaughter charges in Pennsylvania include:
- Involuntary manslaughter – Unintentionally killing someone because of negligent or reckless behavior. For example, someone who plays with a handgun that goes off and kills a friend may face an involuntary manslaughter charge.
- Voluntary manslaughter – More serious form of manslaughter, meaning the defendant did not plan to kill the other person prior to the incident. For example, someone might be charged with voluntary manslaughter for killing another individual in the heat of passion.
- Vehicular manslaughter – Criminal charge reserved for drivers who unintentionally killed another person in a car accident. For example, a drunk driver might be charged with vehicular manslaughter (or vehicular homicide) if the impaired driver runs over and kills a pedestrian.
Murder charges are classified in general by degree. The main types of murder charges include:
- First-degree murder – The most severe murder charge, first-degree murder is an intentional killing. In legal terms, “malice aforethought” is a phrase that describes premeditation, or the willful and deliberate planning of the action.
- Second-degree murder – This charge is filed against a person who is committing a felony and a homicide occurs. For example, a person who is committing a robbery may be charged with murder in the second degree if the robbery victim is killed.
- Third-degree murder – All other murders that are not deliberately planned or that do not occur as part of the process of committing a felony.
What is Penalty for a Manslaughter Conviction?
The penalties vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case. In general, the penalties in Pennsylvania for manslaughter include:
- Involuntary manslaughter (Misdemeanor) – Up to 5 years in prison. (Second-degree felony and up to 10 years in prison if victim is under 12 years old and in the care, custody or control of the person who caused the death).
- Voluntary manslaughter (Felony) – Up to 20 years in prison.
- Vehicular manslaughter – Penalties vary depending on circumstances.
What is penalty for a murder conviction in Pennsylvania?
The penalties for a murder conviction in Pennsylvania include:
- First-degree murder (Felony) – Life in prison or the death penalty (as of April 2015, the death penalty in Pennsylvania is suspended pending a review by the governor of a death penalty report).
- Second-degree murder (Felony) – Up to life in prison
- Third-degree murder (Felony) – Up to 40 years in prison
How to Reach Our Law Firm
The stakes are high when it comes to murder and manslaughter charges, which is why it’s best to arrange a consultation with us immediately.
Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano has a well-earned reputation throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania for carefully investigating such serious cases. Whether it’s reviewing the initial arrest report to interviewing witnesses or consulting with experts in their field, our attorneys work tirelessly on every single murder and manslaughter case. We know that mistakes are often made by police and prosecutors. Without an experienced lawyer at your side, the prosecution may get away with building a flawed case against you.
We also treat our clients with dignity and respect. That starts during our very first meeting with you. If you are represented by us, we will take the time to learn about your case. We will work with you to develop a legal strategy designed to succeed.