It goes without saying that being arrested on suspicion of murder can be a terrifying experience. When the words, “you are under arrest for murder,” are used by law enforcement as cuffs are placed around your wrists, that’s usually enough to surge someone into a state of panic. However, it is in the best interest of the accused to remain quiet and as calm as possible, until they have had a chance to speak with their criminal defense attorney.
Never trust a police officer or other law enforcement person during the process of your arrest. If they bring you into a room to question you, simply state that you know your rights and will not answer anything until your lawyer is present. Oftentimes, that is when you will be granted a phone call, which should be used to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney, like a criminal defense attorney in Fairfax, VA.
After consulting with you about the murder charge, your attorney may use any of these common murder defenses in an effort to protect you:
Self Defense/Justifiable Killing
Depending on the factors of your case and the claims presented against you, your criminal defense attorney may suggest using the self defense/justifiable killing approach. You and your defense attorney will have to bring forward evidence that shows you were only acting in response to the other person’s threatening behavior. It must be proven that you were truly in fear of impending harm or death.
Less often used, but still potentially influential, is the insanity/diminished capacity defense strategy. Your attorney may build a defense case based on the fact that you were too young to have understood what you were doing, highly intoxicated, or clinically insane and weren’t aware of the consequences of your behavior.
- Mental Illness/Disorder
If you have a serious mental illness, it could be used as a defense to a murder crime. Before considering this defense, though, it is imperative that it is used strategically. Your criminal defense attorney may hire a mental health professional to perform an evaluation and request documentation if you have received medical care for a mental illness in the past. If found not guilty due to insanity, the defendant is unlikely to be released freely; he or she will probably be placed in a mental institution instead.
Someone with an impaired state of mind may not realize what they are doing and the gravity of what happened due to intoxication, head trauma, or mental illness. If the impairment/intoxication defense is successful, the defendant may receive a lesser convitction than murder or have their charges acquitted altogether.
- Defendant is a Minor
If the defendant is under the age of 18, they may be charged with a less severe conviction than murder, because adolescents and young children do not always understand the repercussions of their behavior.
Heat of Passion
If the defendant reacted to a situation in a heat of passion, they may be able to avoid charges entirely or be faced with a lesser conviction such as voluntary manslaughter. For example, if a person killed another because the offender was caught harming or violating their loved one in some way, heat of passion could have been the driving force behind their actions.
Thanks to May Law, LLP for their insight into some defenses to murder that a criminal defense attorney might use.