Murder charges can seriously impact the rest of your life and livelihood. In addition to jail time, having a violent crime like murder attached to your record could make it difficult to move forward after your sentence.
It is essential to have a strong defense strategy when facing murder charges. Prosecutors often make the situation intimidating and overwhelming. At the same time, you are left unsure of what they must prove to get a guilty verdict.
Here’s what you should know about the elements of a first-degree murder charge and what prosecutors must do to establish guilt.
The element that sets first-degree murder apart from other types is that it includes intent to kill before the killing. This means that the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt an intentional and premeditated killing.
Additionally, some circumstances can lead to a first-degree murder charge, such as killing using a bomb or killing while committing another crime such as arson, kidnapping or theft. In these situations, the presumption is that you intended to carry out the crime regardless of who stood in your way, leading to a premeditated intent to kill.
There is often more to proving first-degree murder than locating the weapon. Prosecutors often look for other types of evidence, such as:
- Eye-witness reports
- Video or other surveillance footage
- Written documentation
- Character witnesses
A strong defense strategy will spend substantial time raising doubt in as many layers of the evidence as possible. In some cases, this can look like questions about a witness’s perspective or the quality of surveillance footage.
Remember, getting a conviction out of criminal charges requires proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. While it can feel like a task of trying to prove innocence, the court (and the jury) is supposed to assume your innocence until the prosecution can prove otherwise.
Building a strong defense is challenging. You should talk to a skilled professional about your criminal charges.