First degree murder charges represent the most serious allegations that a defendant can face under Washington law. A conviction for the offense can mean a life spent in prison. Persons facing these charges need an advocate on their side that will fight for them every step of the way. The lawyers at Black & Askerov have the fortitude and passion to uphold your rights and defend your freedoms.
What is First Degree Murder?
The laws on first degree murder in Washington are set forth in RCW 9A.32.030. According to this statute, a person is guilty of the crime if he or she causes the death of another person and:
- Does so with a premeditated intent to cause that death,
- Does so while engaging in conduct that shows an extreme indifference to human life, or
- Does so while committing the crime of robbery, rape, burglary, arson, or kidnapping.
Note that “premeditated intent” means that a defendant formed the intent to kill the victim for a period of time, however short, before the actual killing.
Murder in the first degree is a class A felony under Washington law. The maximum penalty for the crime is life in prison and a $50,000 fine. The standard range sentence for the offense is 20 to 30 years in prison.
What is Aggravated First Degree Murder?
The laws on aggravated first degree murder are set forth in RCW 10.95.020. A murder in the first degree charge becomes “aggravated” if the murder is committed with certain factors involved. According to the statute, some of these factors include:
- The victim was a police officer performing his official duties at the time of the killing,
- The victim was a newspaper reporter covering the accused,
- The defendant acted pursuant to a “murder for hire” agreement,
- The defendant acted as part of a gang initiation,
- The killing occurred as part of a drive-by shooting,
- The victim was a judge, juror, witness, or attorney,
- The murder took place in the course of the commission of another serious felony, and
- At the time of the death, the victim had a restraining order against the defendant.
Aggravated first degree murder is a class A felony. The crime brings a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Are Legal Defenses Available?
A defendant can use certain legal defenses to challenge a murder charge. One is for the accused to show that a killing was excusable. This is known as excusable homicide.
A killing, or homicide, is excusable if:
- A defendant caused the death of a person by accident while doing a lawful act, and
- The defendant acted without a criminal, negligent, or unlawful intent.
In some situations, an accused can also use self-defense or defense of others as a valid legal defense. The accused may also assert misidentification of the defendant as a defense to the charges, and/or challenge DNA, fingerprint, and other forensic evidence.
Please note, though, that it will take a skilled and experienced defense attorney to raise the most impactful defense. The criminal defense lawyers at Black & Askerov have over 25 years of combined experience fighting for their clients, including clients charged with murder. These attorneys are tireless in their efforts and passionate in their defense. Do yourself a favor and contact them now to get the legal help you deserve.