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Criminal Homicide

Criminal Homicide, Generally – 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2501

There is no offense more serious than a homicide charge. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the legislature has codified a global definition of Criminal Homicide. Depending upon the state of mind or the intent of the actor, an individual may be convicted of Criminal Homicide based upon an intentional killing or an unintentional killing of another human being. Based upon the type of killing and the state of mind of the actor, the General Assembly has further classified Criminal Homicide as Murder, Manslaughter, or Involuntary Manslaughter.

Murder – 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2502

In Pennsylvania, the legislature has classified the offense Murder into three distinct categories:

Murder of the First Degree – 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2502(a)

  • A Criminal Homicide constitutes a first degree murder when it is willfully or deliberately committed.
  • Upon conviction, an individual shall be sentenced to death by lethal injection or to a term of life imprisonment.
  • In order to serve as Lead Counsel in a Capital Murder case, an attorney must meet the rigorous experience and educational requirements that are mandated in Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 801.
  • Attorney Joe D’Andrea is Death Penalty Certified. He has successfully completed the intensive educational and certification process and has served and Lead Counsel in several Capital Murder cases.

Murder of the Second Degree – 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2502(b)

  • A Criminal Homicide constitutes a second degree murder when it is committed while the defendant was engaged in the perpetration of a felony.
  • Upon conviction, an individual shall be sentenced to a term of life imprisonment.
  • At common law, this degree of Criminal Homicide was known as the “Felony Murder Doctrine.”

Murder of the Third Degree – 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2502(c)

  • Third Degree Murder serves as a “catch-all” for all other killings that may necessitate a Murder charge.
  • This category is graded as a felony of the first degree, which is punishable by a maximum of 40 years of incarceration.

Voluntary Manslaughter – 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2503

  • Is an intentional killing that is committed, without a lawful justification, after the perpetrator is overcome with a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation.
  • Voluntary Manslaughter is a felony of the first degree and is punishable by a maximum term of incarceration of 20 years.
  • At common law, this type of killing was known as a “Heat of Passion” killing.

Involuntary Manslaughter – 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2504

  • An unintentional killing that directly results from the reckless or grossly negligent conduct of the accused.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter is graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree and is punishable by a maximum term of incarceration of 5 years.


When faced with Criminal Homicide charges, there are many defense avenues available to the accused. There are several defenses that a skilled and experienced attorney may utilize to aggressively defend against such serious allegations; such as: the affirmative defenses of self-defense, defense of another and/or justification; intoxication; insanity; guilty but mentally ill; or an alibi defense. These defenses may be available; however, if they are not asserted properly or in a timely manner, then they may be forfeited by the accused. Also, there are several pre-trial strategies that may be employed, which could include but are not limited to: motions to suppress physical and/or testimonial evidence, motions challenging the validity of scientific evidence, motions in limine, or a motion for habeas corpus. As such, it is imperative to secure competent, knowledgeable, and experienced counsel as soon as possible in order to preserve your rights and interests.

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