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Understanding Murder in Norfolk County

Murder in Norfolk

Murder in Norfolk County is a charge for taking a person’s life without legal justification and extends to intentional, unintentional, or reckless killing. It also applies to actions leading to a direct or indirect cause of death.

An indirect cause of death. The accused may be charged for murder if their reckless or negligent act is capable of causing death and eventually results in death.

While murder is the act of taking another person’s life, there are different charges for the crime depending on the circumstances of each case.

  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Vehicular homicide

What is First-Degree Murder in Norfolk County?

Under Massachusetts Laws, first-degree murder involves any premeditated and deliberate killing, including those done with extreme cruelty. Taking a life while committing or attempting to commit a crime that is punishable by death or life imprisonment is also considered first-degree murder. For example, Mr. X robs a bank and hits Mr. Y, a bank customer, with the butt of his gun to scare everyone. If Mr. Y dies from the injuries, then Mr. X has committed first-degree murder. It is irrelevant whether Mr. X unintentionally killed the bank customer. Since armed robbery is an offense punishable with life imprisonment and death occurred in the process, Mr. X will be charged both for armed robbery and first-degree murder.

The punishment for committing first-degree murder is life imprisonment in state prison with no eligibility for parole. If the offender committed the act after their fourteenth birthday but before their eighteenth birthday, the punishment is also life imprisonment in the state prison. However, such an offender will be eligible for parole after a term of years fixed by the court.

What is Second-Degree Murder in Norfolk County?

Second-degree murder usually involves intentional but unpremeditated killing. This covers instances where the offender had no prior plan to kill the deceased but does so in the heat of the moment. A second-degree murder charge can also emanate from causing the death of another in the course of committing another crime. For instance, if the offender’s intent was to cause serious physical harm and their actions resulted in the victim’s death.

A second-degree murder conviction is punishable by life imprisonment in the state prison. The offender may be eligible for parole after a term of years fixed by the court.

What is Third-Degree Murder in Norfolk County?

Under Massachusetts Laws, there is no classification for third-degree murder but its elements or descriptions, as contained in other state’s laws, are similar to the second-degree murder and manslaughter classification in Massachusetts. It refers to a lack of intention to kill but causing death, usually through a reckless act.

What is Manslaughter in Norfolk County?

Manslaughter in Norfolk County involves the killing of another person through reckless conduct or provocation. While MGL Ch. 265 s. 13 provides for the punishment of manslaughter, it does not explain what may constitute the act of manslaughter. It appears that any other act of unjustifiable murder which is not murder in the first or second degree is manslaughter. Accordingly, examples of manslaughter include

  • Causing death when reacting to a provocation
  • Acting in self-defense but using excessive or disproportionate force which leads to death
  • Engaging in reckless conduct capable of causing death and ultimately causing death.

The manslaughter category is wide enough to accommodate multiple scenarios of non-deliberate murder in the absence of reasonable self-defense. Some states classify manslaughter into voluntary and involuntary. However, the MGL Ch. 265 s. 13, as well as the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission Crime List, does not create any clear category. In Norfolk County and Massachusetts generally, it is irrelevant whether the manslaughter is voluntary or involuntary.

The punishment for manslaughter in Norfolk County is

  • A maximum term of 20 years imprisonment in the state prison; or
  • A maximum fine of $1,000; or
  • A maximum term of two and one-half years imprisonment in jail or house of correction

If the offender is a business organization or other legal entity, the punishment is

  • A maximum fine of $250,000; and/or
  • A debarring of the business organization for a maximum of 10 years

What is Vehicular Manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter is the act of recklessly operating a vehicle, or operating a vehicle under the influence, in a public access area and causing death. A person is operating under the influence if they have a .08 or greater blood alcohol content, or they consumed any stimulating substance such as narcotic drugs.

The punishment for vehicular manslaughter when operating under the influence is

  • An imprisonment term between two and a half years and 15 years in the state prison and a maximum fine of $5,000; or
  • An imprisonment term between one year and two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction, and a maximum fine of $5,000

The punishment for vehicular manslaughter caused by recklessness is

  • A maximum term of two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction; or
  • A maximum period of five years in the state prison; or
  • A maximum fine of $3,000; or
  • Both the fine and any of the imprisonment terms

Other consequences of vehicular homicide include revocation of offender’s license by the Registrar of motor vehicles. For a first offender, the revocation will last for 15 years after the conviction. For subsequent offenders, the revocation will last for life.

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Generally, voluntary manslaughter refers to killing another person out of provocation. The killing might be intentional or unintentional. Provocation can be in the form of actual provocatory actions or assault. In cases of provocatory actions, killing the provocateur in the heat of passion mitigates the charges from murder to voluntary manslaughter. If the offender was defending themselves from being assaulted by the deceased, using excessive or disproportionate force in self-defense will result in voluntary manslaughter.

What is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter involves the act of unintentionally killing someone due to reckless conduct. This covers instances where the offender neither intended to kill anyone nor cause serious bodily injury, but someone dies due to their reckless or negligent actions. An example is carelessly wielding a dangerous object in a public or populated area, leading to someone’s death.

What Type of Lawyer do I Need for a Murder Charge in Norfolk County?

Upon arrest for murder in Norfolk County, it is essential to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney will evaluate the case and evidence to develop arguments to dismiss the charge. Prior to trial, a criminal defense attorney will also protect the accused from most intimidation tactics a prosecutor may employ in further implicating the accused. The defense attorney may also submit evidence to support arguments for

  • alibi: This defense is based on the submission that the accused was not present at the scene of the murder and could not have been the murderer. To prove the absence of the accused, the court may receive witness testimony. Where successfully proven, the murder charge will fail.
  • Self-defense: the defense attorney may convince the court that the accused acted in self-defense and exerted the amount of force necessary to protect their own life against the deceased’s.
  • Prevention of a crime: killing to prevent a crime might be legally justified if there was reason to believe that the deceased was about to commit a crime and killing the deceased was the only reasonable way to stop them.
  • Defense of property: If the accused was defending their property and the force used was proportionate, the charges may be dismissed. For example, shooting at armed robbers and killing one of them is proportionate force. However, shooting at a pick-pocket might not be proportionate and can be a case of excessive force.

The facts of each case and evidence for or against the accused will often influence the attorney's defense strategy.