man holding a paper that says beat a murder charge

Can You Beat a Murder Charge?

You can beat a murder charge, be it first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree murder accusations, and even voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges, in Minnesota. The outcome of your case, however, depends on your jurisdiction, aggravating circumstances, and the steps you take soon after getting charged with murder or discovering you are a murder suspect.

man holding a paper that says beat a murder charge

Working with a felony defense lawyer in Minneapolis can also influence the outcome of your case. The lawyer can determine the best defense strategy to get your murder charges reduced or dismissed. Remember, a murder charge or conviction carries lifelong consequences for you and your family. You risk losing your right to vote or possess a firearm, as well as getting your professional license suspended or revoked. You might also struggle to earn a living, as many employers are reluctant to hire employees with felony convictions in their criminal history. 

How to Beat a Murder Charge

Consult a Criminal Lawyer 

Sit down with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to start preparations for the bumpy legal ordeal ahead. This lawyer guides you on what to say and what not to say to the investigators. A seemingly minor mistake by the accused can have adverse ripple effects. That mistake can significantly sway the murder case’s outcome.

Do Not Discuss Specific Case Details With Someone Other Than Your Lawyer

Discretion is of the utmost importance when dealing with murder cases. You should never divulge any case details to your family, friends, the media, or even the police without your attorney present. Sharing your version of events with these parties may severely hurt your upcoming case. 

The police can take your recollection of events out of context. The officers can misconstrue that information as an admission of guilt. It later becomes hard to retract these statements. The police are interested in extracting information to build a case against you. 

You should also not talk to the accusers. Engaging the other parties involved in the case can be misinterpreted as interference with the legal process. If the judge finds out that you contacted the accuser, he or she might deny you bail or issue a restraining order. 

You should engage your lawyer in the initial stages of the murder accusation. The lawyer gets bound by a client confidentiality clause. So, whatever you say to your lawyer remains between you and him or her. 

Preempt the Upcoming Case 

When faced with potential violent crime charges, talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. That allows you to preemptively take charge of your case. This strategy helps you to plan how you will counter any upcoming charges. 

Partnering with a lawyer also helps you stay ahead of the police investigations. There is a possibility that you may even avoid the murder charges or have them reduced to lesser offenses. 

Hire the Right Defense Lawyer

Retain the criminal defense lawyer you consulted earlier if he or she is up to the task. Alternatively, ask this lawyer to give you credible referrals of other capable defense lawyers. Do not settle for just another attorney. Be patient until you find the right criminal defense attorney with a track record of successfully representing criminal defendants charged with murder.

Paying a criminal defense attorney to represent your murder case can feel daunting. However, your focus should be on getting your freedom and reputation back after the murder charges. 

Minnesota courthouses are filled with murder cases at different stages. After all, people face violent crime accusations all the time. The majority of these charges turn out to be false and later get dropped. Only a few of them turn into convictions. So, getting charged with murder does not necessarily imply guilt. With an excellent lawyer and solid defense strategy, your charges can get reduced or dismissed altogether. 

The Degrees of Murder in Minnesota

Understanding the contours of violent crimes, their sentences, and the associated punishments helps you to beat the charges. Knowing the degrees of murder in Minnesota helps you understand what you are up against. This knowledge helps you and your defense lawyer form a robust defense. A solid defense safeguards you from harsh penalties associated with these criminal offenses. 

1st Degree Murder 

Minnesota criminal laws rank first-degree murders as the most serious violent crimes. The offender stands accused of willfully planning, premeditating, and executing this heinous crime. This malice aforethought aspect is blood-cuddling and chilling. That is why the courts recommend putting away the offenders for a long time.

This felony further gets broken down into different categories. These subclasses depend on the aggravating or special circumstances leading to and after the offense. 

Here are some instances of first-degree murder where the accused had a relationship or was familiar to his or her alleged victims:

  • Someone willfully and purposely takes the life of his or her spouse after repeated domestic violence.
  • A wife who deliberately buys poison and puts it in the husband’s coffee.
  • A neighbor laid an ambush for the neighbor at night and then stabbed him or her several times.

Other instances include killing a police officer, a judge, a child, or a witness to impede justice in another ongoing case. 

At times, the first-degree charges get slapped on a defendant for his or her actions during the crime. For instance, someone who plans to rape a neighbor and dispose of the body afterward might be charged with first-degree murder. The same charges apply to an alleged offender who demands ransom and afterward kills the kidnapped victim. First-degree murder charges might also apply to someone who plans and carries out a heinous murder after committing terrorist acts, arson, or robbery. 

Minnesota does not issue the death sentence, however. So, those convicted of first-degree murder often face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

1st-Degree Murder Requirements 

The Minnesota penal code requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged offender premeditated and executed the murder. It must establish that the offender had all intent and purpose to kill the victim. That is why if a defendant poisons his or her victim’s food and someone else consumes it and dies, the offender is still liable for 1st-degree murder prosecution.

The planning for murder executed by the accused does not need to be elaborate. The 1st-degree murder charge threshold only requires the prosecution to prove that the accused paused, even if for a few moments, to consider and execute his or her heinous actions for the charges to stick. Additionally, the prosecution must show the defender had enough time to reconsider this decision, but still chose otherwise. 

Beating 1st-Degree Murder Charges 

For a defendant to beat or reduce these serious murder accusations, the defendant must convince the courts that death was either an accident, a justified killing, or that the allegations are false. 

If you prove that you acted in self-defense, the accusation can get scaled down to manslaughter. The latter carries less severe penalties and punishments. To show that it was self-defense, the defendant must establish that his or her reactions arose from the victim’s threats. 

If you cite self-defense, the courts examine your reaction to the perceived threats. Ideally, your response must be proportional to the threat faced. For example, the jury will find it hard to believe your defense when you used a gun to kill an unarmed attacker. 

Your felony defense lawyer can assess your situation and conduct further investigations to identify the best legal defense and arguments to fight your murder charges.

2nd Degree Murder Charges

This level of murder is still defined as deliberate, although it is not as serious as the 1st-degree offense. In this case, the defendant stands accused of taking the life of another, although the crime was not premeditated. This murder occurs as knee-jerk impulses when a person reacts out of intense emotions. In most states, 2nd-degree murder charges are simply murder charges that do not meet the conditions of 1st-degree murder. 

In these cases, even though the defendant did not premeditate the murder, the defendant must have been sane enough to understand the consequences. This is what separates 2nd-degree murder from voluntary manslaughter. The latter defines a crime that was not premeditated or provoked, but occurred impulsively due to emotional surges.

An example of 2nd-degree murder is when someone commits a heinous violent crime without necessarily intending to kill the victim, but knowing all too well that the action can likely lead to death. For instance, a person knocks another person on the head with a rock and kills the victim. Here, even though the defendant did not primarily intend to kill the victim, he or she should have been fully aware that such an action can cause death. As such, this person is said to have acted with reckless disregard for life or with a depraved heart and could face a 2nd-degree murder charge. 

Other classical examples of second-degree murders include:

  • Accidentally taking the life of a court-protected victim while only intending to cause physical harm
  • A drive-by shooting that results in an unintentional killing
  • When someone gets killed during a robbery that did not involve aggravating factors like sexual assault

Possible Sentencing for 2nd-Degree Murder 

While not as severe as 1st-degree charges or convictions, these offenses carry lengthy sentencing for the guilty person. Although the jail stints differ in different states, the convicted individual should expect to serve no less than ten to fifteen years behind bars. A 2nd-degree murder case with aggravating factors has different legal implications. 

Beating 2nd-Degree Murder Charges 

It is possible to overcome the 2nd-degree murder charges in Minnesota. The defense strategy used by your lawyer will depend on the facts and circumstances of the alleged offense. Possible defenses range from self-defense or defense of others to mistaken identity and false accusations.  

3rd-Degree Murder

These charges or convictions get meted on defendants established to have a depraved heart. This charge gets reserved for criminal-minded individuals with a blatant disregard for the sanctity of life. For example, a defendant who shoot indiscriminately into a crowd without deliberately intending to kill a particular person faces 3rd-degree murder. In this scenario, the action, though not premeditated or intentional, arose from malice. 

Reckless actions and gross negligence crimes resulting in unintentional deaths include:

  • Drug trafficking 
  • Arson 
  • Burglary 
  • Carjacking and hijacking 
  • Sexual assault 

Minnesota’s 3rd-Degree Murder Laws

Minnesota further breaks down 3rd-degree murder charges into two parts. One, the defendant unintentionally took the life of another by carrying out a life-threatening act. This class of felonies carries up to 25 years in prison.

Two, unintended death that arose from the defendants’ actions to sell and administer controlled substances, like narcotics. For example, these charges apply when buying drugs becomes murder. These charges attract up to 25 years in prison and up to $40,000 in fines. 

Beating 3rd-Degree Murder Charges 

It is possible to beat 3rd-degree murder charges or have your convictions overturned in Minnesota. To achieve that, the defendant needs a proficient criminal defense attorney to prove that even though his or her actions resulted in the demise of another, they were not premeditated. The defendant must show that his or her intentions were merely to cause some degree of harm, but not to kill the victim. 

Homicide vs Murder 

Homicide refers to the lawful and unlawful death of another person. This violent crime is justifiable on certain grounds, however. For example, the defendant can argue that he or she killed the victim to prevent a serious felony crime, or to assist law enforcement agencies in maintaining law and order. Alternatively, the defendant can cite self-defense. 

Murder, on the other hand, is killing another person unlawfully and with malice or forethought. In other words, murder is killing someone without a valid excuse or legal justification. 

What Is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter refers to a criminal offense that results in the unintentional killing of another human. Manslaughter charges get divided into voluntary and involuntary categories. Voluntary manslaughter or, crimes of passion, apply when the defendant gets charged with killing a victim following provocation. The defendant’s actions stem from his or her inability to control the intense emotions during the incident. 

Involuntary manslaughter constitutes negligent death. For example, a hunter mistakenly shoots his or her partner, or a homeowner accidentally mistakes his or her spouse to be an intruder and shoots the spouse. Other examples of involuntary manslaughter include a child dying due to parental neglect or a drunk driver hitting and killing a pedestrian.

Despite the circumstances leading to these manslaughter offenses, the defendant still faces prison time and hefty fines for his or her actions. 

Beating manslaughter allegations is much easier compared to the other murder-degree charges. For starters, these offenses do not include the inexcusable malice and forethought angles. Also, it is easy for the defendant to argue that he or she acted out of emotions after getting strongly provoked by the victim. The defendant can claim he or she did not have enough time to evaluate the consequences of the actions, which may help him or her to beat a murder charge.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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