Murder Laws In West Virginia
What is murder?
Murder is a very complex and extremely serious charge. It is one of the most infamous crimes in our society, and accusations of murder never fail to trigger a wide range of responses.
Facing murder charges means you are accused of the willful, deliberate, and premeditated (thought out) killing of another human being.
Under West Virginia murder laws, murder is a capital offense, meaning you can be put in prison for the rest of your life without the possibility for parole.
In many other states, capital offenses can be punished by death, but West Virginia does not have a death penalty at this time.
If you find yourself accused of murder, you need to immediately contact a qualified, experienced criminal attorney like Todd La Neve of Clarksburg, West Virginia. Remember that in any criminal case, even murder, you have the right to an attorney of his caliber.
There are two degrees of murder in West Virginia—First Degree and Second Degree.
Based on written case opinions from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, the difference between murder and manslaughter is that voluntary manslaughter arises in the heat of the moment, while murder arises from malice.
Chances are, we have all seen in a movie, a television show, or a news segment of a person in court with a Jury Foreman stating, "On the charge of first degree murder, we, the jury, find the defendant guilty."
First degree murder is considered the most serious type of murder, because it was planned and done intentionally.
Example: A person plots how to pull off a surprise attack on an armored bank truck, shoot the guards, and make off with the money in the truck, and then actually carries out that plan. This is a case of first degree murder.
Second degree murder often results in less-severe penalties because the person acted unusually and beyond their normal self-control due to an intense situation. An element of malice is still required to be proven by the government.
Example: A person finds her child being physically abused by another adult and instantly becomes so enraged that she kills the other person, on the spot, to save their child. The intent was certainly to kill the other person, but there was no plan to do so. In other words, the intentional killing arose instantly as a result of the emotional intensity of the moment.
Cases of second degree murder can often be reduced to instances of voluntary manslaughter because there is a fine line between the two in many situations. Also, the element of malice, required for murder, may not actually be present.
Felony murder is a charge that arises when the government proves the following facts, or elements of the crime:
- The commission of, or the attempt to commit, any of the felony offenses of arson, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, escape from lawful custody, or a felony offense of manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance.
- The defendant's participation in such commission or attempt.
- The death of the victim as a result of injuries received during the course of such commission or attempt. It is not required that there be an intentional killing in this instance, but merely that someone died during the commission or attempt of the named crimes. More importantly, anyone who was a part of the planning or actual commission of these crimes, in any way and no matter how small, is guilty of felony murder if someone dies.
Since there are many different scenarios involved in any of these types of murder cases, there are numerous defenses an attorney in West Virginia must explore for your particular case. If you were found to be acting in self-defense, for example, you could be found not guilty of murder.
The penalty for first degree murder in West Virginia is imprisonment for life. The convicted person has a right to have a jury decide if a finding of mercy should be made or not. If mercy is recommended by a jury, that means the person will be eligible to seek parole after serving 15 years in the penitentiary. If mercy is not recommended, the person will actually spend the entire rest of their life in prison.
The penalty for second degree murder is a definite period of time that may not be less than 10 years nor more than 40 years. In all cases, the person shall not be eligible to seek parole any sooner than 10 years.
The penalty for felony murder in West Virginia is the same as that for first degree murder.
Whatever the facts of your particular case are, be smart and contact a defense attorney right away. Do not discuss the case with anyone, especially the police, until you have spoken with your attorney.