Being charged with homicide is a harrowing and life-altering event, and it can affect your life for years to come. Homicide is a serious crime, and a conviction can lead to years in prison or even the death penalty.
Because of the severity of the charge and the potentially serious consequences, if you or a loved one has been charged with homicide in Atlanta or anywhere else in Georgia, don’t waste any time—contact an experienced defense lawyer immediately. To convict someone accused of homicide, the State must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Atlanta Homicide Lawyer David Schnipper has criminal law experience gained while working in two District Attorney’s offices and is well-versed in criminal defense strategies. Depending on the circumstances in your case, he may be able to have the charges dismissed or reduced, sometimes without even going to trial.
How Is Homicide Defined in Georgia?
A person may be charged with homicide if they have killed another human being. Homicide is a felony, the most serious type of crime. Felonies convictions carry prison sentences of 12 months or more.
Under Georgia law, the crime of homicide is divided into three categories:
- Voluntary manslaughter; and
- Involuntary manslaughter.
In Georgia, a person may be convicted of committing murder, felony murder, or second-degree murder. The penalties for these crimes are different, based on the level of calculation and intention involved.
Georgia law defines murder as causing another person’s death “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied.” Malice aforethought means having the calculated intent to do harm. So, for example, a wife who plans to shoot her husband and purchases a handgun for that purpose has done so with malice aforethought.
A person may be convicted of felony murder even if they did not intend to kill another person, but they caused someone else’s death while they were in the process of committing some other felony crime. If the person is robbing an empty home, for example, but shoots and kills the homeowner when they unexpectedly return, that person may be charged with felony murder.
Under Georgia law, murder in the second degree is “when, in the commission of cruelty to children in the second degree, [a person] causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.” This means that parents or caretakers who cause a child’s death through neglect can be charged with second-degree murder.
Under Georgia law, voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person intentionally kills someone else as the result of a “sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person.” So, for example, if a person came home early from a business trip and found their spouse in bed with another partner, and, in a rage, they killed their spouse, the partner, or both, a court may convict that person of voluntary manslaughter.
The law does, however, specify that no time can elapse between the provocation and the killing, or the act becomes premeditated murder. In other words, there can be no “cooling off period” between the event that causes the “sudden, violent, and irresistible passion” and the killing, or the person will be charged with murder rather than involuntary manslaughter.
Involuntary manslaughter is when someone conducts themselves in a reckless or illegal manner and inadvertently causes someone else’s death while doing so. For example, if someone gets behind the wheel while severely impaired by alcohol or drugs and kills someone else in a car crash, they can be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
What Are the Penalties for Homicide?
Murder is punished very harshly in Georgia. Our state still uses the death penalty. A murder conviction carries a minimum sentence of life in prison. The maximum sentence is the death penalty.
Voluntary manslaughter carries a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
During sentencing, the court looks at both mitigating and aggravating factors in the particular circumstances of the case to determine the appropriate penalties and punishment. Mitigating factors can include, for example, being under duress if you were engaged in reckless or illegal activity. Aggravating factors can include previous convictions for other violent crimes, including other homicides.
What Are the Possible Defenses Against a Homicide Charge?
A homicide charge is not the same as a conviction. A criminal court must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect actually committed the crime with which they are charged. If you believe you are innocent and, for example, someone or something else actually caused the other person’s death, an experienced attorney can investigate the case and mount a defense of your innocence.
Other potential defenses include:
- Defense of Other People
- No Malicious Intent
- Reasonable Mistake
- Killing Committed Under Duress
- Killing Committed in the Exercise of Duty (law enforcement officers)
- Defense of Property
A defense attorney might be able to use these defenses to argue for reduced charges. If an attorney can prove a lack of malicious intent, for example, the court may reduce a murder charge to a voluntary manslaughter charge.
Experienced Atlanta Homicide Lawyer David Schnipper Can Fight for Justice
Homicide is an extremely serious charge. The specific crime you are charged with can make a significant difference in the penalties you may face. So can extenuating circumstances and any mitigating or aggravating factors. As a result, it is very important to engage a lawyer experienced in defending homicide cases in Georgia. A seasoned attorney can fight vigorously to see that justice is done.
If you or a loved one has been accused of or arrested for homicide, call Schnipper Law, P.C., at (404) 545-5845 or contact us online to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.
Attorney David Schnipper knows that each case is different, and he makes himself personally available for consultations with clients throughout the legal process. He provides his clients with his cell phone number, so clients can call him at any time.