Depending on the circumstances, altercations and accidents that result in the death of another person can lead to charges of murder or manslaughter under Missouri criminal law. The difference from one type of murder charge to another generally has to do with the intent of the defendant. The following will help in understanding the different levels of homicide in Missouri and the associated punishments.
First or Second-Degree Murder
The most serious of the murder classifications in Missouri is first-degree murder. A charge of first-degree murder applies when you knowingly cause the death of another person after some deliberation. In addition to the death penalty, the punishment for first-degree murder committed by an adult, as a Class A felony, is life imprisonment without the possibility of probation or parole.
Second-degree murder, occurs when you knowingly cause the death of another person, but without the element of prior deliberation. A second-degree murder charge can also apply if a person purposely causes serious injury to another that leads to their death. Missouri also recognizes “felony murder” as second-degree murder, which occurs when a person dies as a result of the commission, attempted commission, or fleeing from the commission or attempted commission of a felony crime. For example, a person attempts to rob a bank and, in the process, shoots and kills a bank teller, innocent bystander, or even one of their own partners, that person may be charged with second-degree murder.
Second-degree murder is also a Class A felony, punishable for ten to thirty years, or life imprisonment.
Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is comparable to second-degree murder. However, as the defendant, you have the burden of proving you caused the death because you were under the influence of sudden passion with adequate cause. This means there must have been some justifiable reason that led you to become enraged and take action that led to the death (e.g., an escalating fight or other traumatic events). The punishment for voluntary manslaughter is imprisonment between 5 and 15 years as a Class B felony.
A charge of involuntary manslaughter applies when the defendant’s reckless (first-degree) or criminally negligent (second-degree) behavior causes death. Involuntary manslaughter is the lowest level of homicide because the defendant did not intend to cause death. Instead, acted in a way they should have otherwise known could lead to death. Cases of vehicular homicide are often some type of manslaughter depending on the severity of the driver’s negligence.
As a Class C felony, the punishment for first-degree involuntary manslaughter is imprisonment between 3 and 10 years. Second-degree manslaughter can carry a punishment of up to 4 years imprisonment as a class E felony.
Legal Defense for a Murder or Manslaughter Case
Having a strong legal defense in a homicide case is essential because of the lengthy and permanent punishments involved. Michael Taylor is an experienced criminal defense attorney serving Lee’s Summit and the Kansas City area. As a former prosecutor, he understands all sides of the criminal legal system evidenced by case results with dropped charges and acquittals.
Contact The Law Office of Michael R. Taylor today to schedule your free consultation on a homicide charge or another criminal case.