For someone accused of a criminal offense in Tennessee, few charges are more intimidating than murder charges. First-degree murder, in particular, is so serious that it could result in life in prison.
There are typically three penalties that may apply after a guilty plea or conviction on first-degree murder charges in Tennessee. Individuals may face the death penalty, life imprisonment without parole or life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
If police just arrested you and blame you for someone’s death, does that mean you will spend the rest of your life in prison?
Not every murder is first-degree murder
In Tennessee, three different scenarios may constitute first-degree murder. The first and best known is when the criminal act is a premeditated one. That means that the person accused of the offense planned the murder before it occurred.
If someone kills another person by using a bomb, even if they only wanted to create an explosion and not harm anyone, that also constitutes first-degree murder. Finally, the state can charge someone with first-degree or felony murder if they kill someone while committing or attempting to commit another serious criminal act like burglary or arson.
Only in situations where the prosecutor can prove the situation falls into one of these three categories will you typically face first-degree murder charges.
Life in prison does not always mean life in prison
People often assume that if the courts sentence someone to life imprisonment that they will spend the rest of their days in state custody unless they qualify for parole. However, even those sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole could eventually leave prison again.
In Tennessee, a life imprisonment sentence is actually only 51 years. The younger someone is when accused of an offense, the more likely they are to fulfill their sentence and potentially gain re-entry into society. Obviously, it would be much better to avoid a conviction by assertively defending yourself so that you don’t have a violent criminal record or spend decades of your life in prison.
Understanding what is at risk when you face murder charges can help you decide the best response.