Criminal homicide charges are arguably the most serious crimes a person can be accused of, but homicide charges can also be the most difficult to prove, or there may be an underlying defense to the act. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our experienced homicide and murder lawyers in Cape May understand the seriousness and the gravity of the charge you are facing.
Murder and homicide charges can change your life forever. Don’t wait another day to take legal action. To schedule a free, completely private legal consultation with our Cape May murder defense lawyers, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away at (609) 616-4956. Our phone lines are always open.
The Types of Murder Charges in Cape May County
Most people understand that a murder charge of any degree is serious, however, Cape May residents may not be aware of all of the consequences of a murder charge and how a homicide charge can affect your life.
Many people think that homicide equals murder. In reality, murder is only one component of criminal homicide, which actually describes a group of offenses. While all homicide offenses involve taking the life of another human being, there are major differences between murder, homicide, manslaughter, and death by auto, not only in terms of how these crimes are defined, but also in how they are penalized. It’s very important for defendants and their loved ones to understand exactly what the charges against them involve.
In NJ, homicide is an umbrella term used when a death has occurred because of another’s conduct. Murder falls into three separate types. Murder, addressed by N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-3, is the most serious form of homicide. The first is when the actor purposely causes death, or serious bodily injury resulting in death. In other words, murder refers to the deliberate and intentional taking of a life.
Murder can also be charged if the defendant deliberately inflicts “serious bodily injury” which results in death. For this reason, assault or aggravated assault charges can turn into murder charges if the victim later dies from their injuries. As provided by N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-2.1, “The length of time which has elapsed between the initial assault and the death of the victim shall not be a bar to prosecution of the actor for criminal homicide.” This charge requires special elements other than the death of another human being, notably, the state will have to prove that anyone accused of first-degree murder had malice aforethought and evil intentions towards the victim, or alternatively, that the victim died during the commission of another felony.
A defendant can also be charged with murder if he or she causes the death of another person while committing, trying to commit, or fleeing from the scene of a crime. The list of felonies that can be used to support a first-degree felony murder charge is as follows:
• Sexual Assault
• Carjacking (vehicular theft)
• Sex Crimes (sexual assault or rape)
• Criminal Escape
This type of murder is often referred to as felony murder because of the underlying felony that accompanies this charge. A distinguishing feature of this charge is that a person can be charged with felony murder even if they did not actually commit the crime of murder, but rather were part of the felony. For example, if during the commission of a robbery where there are two people working together, if one of the accused shoots a bystander who dies from their injuries, then both parties can be charged with felony murder, even if the other accused did not have any knowledge or intent to kill.
Potential Criminal Penalties for Murder in Cape May, NJ
New Jersey abolished the use of the death penalty in 2007. However, that doesn’t mean convicted defendants have nothing to worry about. If you’re found guilty of committing homicide in Cape May, you could face penalties as harsh as life in prison without the possibility of parole, depending on the nature of the charges.
Under state law, Cape May does not grade crimes as “felonies” and “misdemeanors.” Instead, felonies are called crimes or indictable crimes, while misdemeanors are called disorderly persons or DP offenses. All homicide crimes are indictable, or felonies. The lower the degree of a crime (e.g. second degree, first degree), the more serious the criminal consequences.
Murder is always graded as a first degree crime. While the normal sentence for a first degree crime is 10 to 20 years in prison, murder is subject to enhanced penalties due to the seriousness of the offense. The prison sentence for murder charges in Cape May is either:
- 30 years, with no possibility of parole.
- 30 years to life, with no possibility of parole until at least 30 years of the sentence have been served. Even then, parole may be denied.
What Are the Defenses to a Murder Charge in Cape May?
If you are facing any homicide charge in Cape May, your very freedom is on the line. From the moment you are charged your defense begins. That is why it is always a good decision to contact an experienced Cape May murder defense attorney immediately. While the outcome may seem bleak to you, there are defenses to a murder charge, and the Cape May murder and homicide defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych have used these defenses effectively to lower murder charges or have them dismissed altogether.
Contest the Identification
Over the past several years eyewitness identifications have proved to be wholly inaccurate, and there have been hundreds of people who have been sentenced and subsequently acquitted of crimes because the eyewitness identification turned out to be wholly false.
Many people have been accused of a crime, even as serious as murder when in reality they were not in the location where the murder occurred. This defense is commonly used and was used in the case of State v. Pierre, 223 N.J. 560, 127 A.3d 1260 (N.J., 2015), where the defendant maintained that when the crime occurred at 3:19 a.m. on March 20, 1994, he and one of his codefendants were not in New Jersey, but on their way to Florida to visit defendant’s relatives. While this case was remanded back to the trial court based on ineffective assistance of counsel, it does demonstrate that the alibi defense has been used.
Evidence of intoxication is admissible as a defense to murder to disprove that a defendant acted purposely or knowingly but not as a defense to aggravated manslaughter, nor manslaughter to show that he was unaware of a risk of which he should have been aware had he been sober.
Self-defense is a valid defense for Cape May murder charges and exists when the defendant reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the use of unlawful force by another person on the present occasion. This defense is most often used when the accused and the victim were in a fight or other altercation wherein the defendant was attacked with deadly force, and was required to use deadly force to protect themselves.
No Mental State
Murder is a specific intent crime, meaning that if the state does not prove that the defendant knowingly or purposefully causes the death or serious bodily injury of another, that leads to death.
Innocent of Underlying felony
In the case of felony murder, if the defendant is acquitted of the underlying offense, then they cannot be convicted of felony murder.
Contact a Cape May Murder + Homicide Defense Attorney Today
When the consequences are this serious, it is absolutely critical to work with a highly experienced Cape May homicide lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. For a free and private consultation, call our criminal defense lawyers in Cape May at (609) 616-4956 any time of day or night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.