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First-degree murder in Tennessee: A quick primer

All murder charges are serious matters since these are violent felony charges that involve a victim's death. The penalties for these charges are very serious. This means that anyone who is facing criminal charges in relation to a homicide should understand what they are up against.

In Tennessee, there are six types of homicide charges -- reckless homicide, criminally negligent homicide, voluntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide, second degree murder and first degree murder. Of these, first degree murder is the most serious. Here's what you need to know about this charge.

Definition of first degree murder

In order for a murder to be classified as a first degree murder charge, it has to be premeditated or it has to occur during the commission of a violent felony. Essentially, it is impossible to accidentally commit first degree murder. You should remember that the burden is on the prosecutor to show that one of these two elements was present and that there wasn't any lawful element to the homicide.

Penalties for first degree murder

There are three possible penalties for first degree murder. The first is the death penalty. It is also possible to receive life in prison without parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole. In order for the penalty to be anything other than life in prison with the possibility of parole, there have to be aggravating conditions present.

Aggravating conditions

The prosecution must be able to prove that there were aggravating circumstances if it wants to pursue the death penalty or life without parole. Tennessee law sets specific conditions that are considered aggravated. If the victim was disabled, over 70 years old or under 12 years old, the criteria for an aggravating condition is met. Other conditions include the victim being a police officer, judge, elected official, probation or parole officer, correction officer, firefighter, or emergency services worker who is on the job. Other conditions might also qualify as aggravating factors, so you must find out if this is playing a part in your case.

Defense is possible

Just because you are facing a first degree murder charge, you don't have to sit back and let the prosecution have its way. Instead, you do have option for fighting the charge. You can also take steps to try to minimize the penalties you will face in the event you are convicted. If you are facing a first degree murder charge, make sure that you explore all of the defense options on the table so that you can figure out what you want to do.

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