Homicide is defined as the killing of a human being by another. Under this broad legal term of homicide are the crimes of murder and manslaughter. Murder and manslaughter are generally differentiated by the defendant’s state of mind; murder is purposeful while manslaughter is reckless. States have varying laws regarding what circumstances will constitute each of these offenses and what penalties will be imposed upon conviction.
In New Jersey, there are two types of murder charges: first degree murder and felony murder. In order to be convicted of first degree murder or felony murder in New Jersey, the prosecutor must prove certain elements. A seasoned Camden County criminal lawyer at the Law Office of Thomas J. Gosse can explain your legal rights and options so that you can put forth an informed, assertive defense.
First degree murder convictions carry severe penalties, including a life sentence and fines of up to $200,000. In 2007, the death penalty was abolished in New Jersey, however those convicted face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison. Depending on the circumstances of the case, such as the egregious nature of the killing, murder of a police officer or prior convictions, defendants may receive more lengthy sentences, up to life imprisonment.
To prove first degree murder, prosecutors must show that the defendant intended to kill or cause serious bodily harm that resulted in death. This means that the killing must have either been deliberate and premeditated or the defendant inflicted serious bodily harm purposefully, knowing it would likely result in death. A qualified Camden County criminal lawyer at the Law Office of Thomas J. Gosse can attempt to show that you did not intend to kill another person, that you acted in self-defense or that you were acting in the heat of passion after being adequately provoked and therefore, you should not be found guilty of first degree murder.
Felony murder is when someone is killed while the defendant is committing, attempting to commit or fleeing after committing, a felony crime. Unlike first degree murder, the prosecutor does not have to prove that the defendant had a plan or intended to kill the victim. The fact that a person was killed during the commission, attempted commission or while fleeing from the commission of a felony is enough to be charged and convicted of felony murder.
Felonies that prompt the felony murder rule include dangerous crimes such as kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, carjacking, terrorism and escape from law enforcement. Felony murder carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison. A skilled criminal lawyer may be able to prove that you are innocent of the underlying felony and therefore, you should not be found guilty of felony murder.
When facing murder charges, you may be able to enter into a plea bargain or have your case go to trial. A plea bargain generally involves pleading guilty to a lesser offense in order to avoid conviction for a more serious offense, or pleading guilty to a more serious offense in exchange for a lighter sentence. You may choose to enter into a plea bargain if your chances of winning at trial are not favorable or you wish to avoid the lengthy and often stressful experience of trial. On the other hand, you may wish to assert your innocence and fight for your freedom by taking your case to trial. At the Law Office of Thomas J. Gosse, an experienced, knowledgeable Camden County criminal lawyer can explain all your legal options. Our criminal defense team is experienced in both negotiation and litigation and we are prepared to move forward with either a plea bargain or a jury trial.
If you are facing murder charges in New Jersey, contact a Camden County criminal lawyer at the Law Office of Thomas J. Gosse. We are dedicated to helping you fight for your freedom and our skilled legal team will aggressively pursue the best outcome in your case. Schedule a confidential consultation by submitting an online contact form or by calling us at 856-546-6600 or toll-free at 800-989-1575. Our offices are located in Haddon Heights, New Jersey and we proudly represent clients throughout South Jersey, including those in Camden, Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Collingswood, and Moorestown.