There are different murder charges in Pennsylvania. What a person may be charged with depends on how the victim was killed. The charges are also based on a determination of the intent of the defendant.
A person can be charged with manslaughter or murder. There are two different manslaughter crimes and three degrees of murder charges, with first degree being the most serious.
To prove someone is guilty of first degree murder, prosecutors must that prove certain elements are present. The first element is that an unlawful killing occurred. Then, to separate murder from manslaughter, it must be shown that the defendant acted with malice, which means that they intended to harm the other person. Finally, what separates first degree murder from other types of murder charges is that prosecutors must prove that the killing was premeditated, and the defendant intended to kill and did not do so in the heat of passion.
Proving all of these elements is not always easy. The prosecution must prove all elements of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant might have a claim of self-defense or be able to show that the killing was accidental or that they suffered from insanity.
People who are charged with first degree murder in Pennsylvania face the most serious consequences anyone can face. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and being charged does not mean that a person will be convicted. However, it is also important to have a strong defense. Experienced attorneys understand the gravity of these cases and may be a useful resource.