While the crime of murder is typically charged at the state level, there are certain cases where it is charged under the federal laws of the U.S. An example is when a federal judge is killed. If a federal crime, murder can lead to decades in federal prison and even the death penalty. Please consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney now if facing any type of homicide charge.

When is Murder a Federal Crime?

There are certain cases when murder is prosecuted under federal law. For example, instances in which murder is a federal crime include when the murder is:

  • Of a federal judge or law enforcement officer,
  • Of an elected or appointed federal government officer,
  • Committed during the course of a bank robbery,
  • Related to rape, child molestation, or the sexual exploitation of children,
  • Committed on a ship, and
  • Committed by crossing state lines.

Note that according to federal law (18 U.S.C. 1111), “murder” is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.

What are the Penalties?

A murder coming under federal jurisdiction may be charged as either first-degree murder or second-degree murder. Both are felony offenses.

First-degree murder is typically punishable by the death penalty or imprisonment in federal prison for life.

Second-degree murder is generally punishable by any terms of years in federal prison, as determined by the federal sentencing guidelines.

Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?

Yes. People charged with murder at both the federal and state levels can challenge the charge with a legal defense. A few common defenses include showing that:

  • You acted in self-defense,
  • You killed a person on accident and without malice aforethought,
  • You were falsely accused,
  • There is insufficient evidence to establish guilt, and
  • You acted by reason of insanity.

An accused can also try to contest a charge by showing that there was some violation of the laws on criminal procedure. For example, maybe an offender can show that the police:

  • Arrested him/her without probable cause,
  • Seized an item without a lawful search warrant, or
  • Coerced a confession.

If any of the above, a judge could reduce a murder charge or dismiss one altogether.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a murder allegation, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on homicide and federal charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!