November 5, 2019 | Criminal Defense
Facing charges for the death of another person in Indiana, though, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being charged with murder.
Murder charges in most states are divided into different levels, such as first-degree murder and second-degree murder. In Indiana, though, there’s only one murder charge, and it’s included in the homicide category.
Because a charge of murder carries such heavy penalties – including the death sentence – no stone should be left unturned to have charges against you dismissed or reduced.
How Is Homicide Defined in Indiana?
The term “homicide” simply means that one person was killed by another person. The term itself is neutral – meaning it doesn’t blame one person or the other for the death.
The different types of homicide are murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless homicide.
What’s the Penalty in Indiana for Murder?
While all homicide charges are serious, murder is the one that carries the most weight. If proven guilty of murder, your future could be grim indeed.
Possible penalties include being put to death, life behind bars without parole, 45-65 years behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines.
What Leads to a Murder Charge in Indiana?
Going by the books, murder in Indiana is defined as the planned killing of one person by another person with malice.
Malice is the key word and describes the state of mind of the person charged in the killing.
There are five categories in proving malice:
- Intent to kill
- Determination to cause great bodily harm
- Intent to commit a dangerous felony
- Committed to resist lawful arrest
- Determined to commit an act regardless if it results in the death of another person.
For a murder charge to stick, a prosecutor must prove just one of the above “states of mind” of the accused person.
How are Murder and Manslaughter Different?
Again, it all comes down to the accused person’s state of mind.
While manslaughter does describe the death of a person caused by someone else, it does not include malice – or forethought of committing the act, like murder does.
There are two categories of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary.
With voluntary manslaughter, someone was intentionally killed, but there was no previous intent to do so. These are often “heat of passion” crimes, when one becomes caught up in the emotions of the moment.
For example, if a husband catches his wife cheating on him with another man, the husband may be enraged with fury and kill either the wife or the other man. Under other circumstances, the husband wouldn’t dream of hurting someone else – much less killing them. His state of mind, though, was so powerful that he clearly did not think his actions through.
In Indiana, voluntary manslaughter is punishable by 10-30 years behind bars and up to $10,000 in fines.
Involuntary manslaughter is the term used when a death happens because of an accident. The charges can also stem from when someone is killed while another crime is being carried out.
Drunk driving accidents, for example, that lead to someone’s death can lead to involuntary manslaughter charges.
A conviction for involuntary manslaughter could result in 1-6 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
What’s the Difference Between Murder and Reckless Homicide?
While a murder charge requires some level of intent or determination, a charge of reckless homicide stems from someone being aware of – but ignoring – risks of injury to another person.
For example, an Indiana woman was recently convicted of reckless homicide for killing three children with her car as they approached a stopped school bus. In her defense, the woman said she did not recognize the vehicle as being a school bus until the children were directly in front of her.
Reckless homicide convictions carry 1-6 years of prison time and up to $10,000 in fines.
Are There Effective Defenses to Murder Charges?
Each case is different, but if you’re facing murder charges, you need an aggressive Indianapolis criminal defense attorney in your corner immediately.
Remember, a murder charge places a lot of emphasis on a person’s state of mind. So, it’s no surprise that most effective murder defenses flow from attacking that requirement.
- Lack of intent. For example, someone is shot because they were mistaken for an intruder entering the home late at night.
- Self-defense. A new law in Indiana gives people the right to protect themselves without fear of criminal penalties.
- Intoxication. Unexpected things can happen when people have had too much to drink. In many cases, high levels of intoxication have been enough to downgrade murder charges to those with less stiff penalties.
- Insanity. The key to this defense is proving you did not mentally understand your behavior was wrong when the killing occurred.
Being charged with murder is about as serious as things can get. With the prospect of being sentenced to death or spending the rest of your life in prison, the immediate assistance of a skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney is a must.