In Oklahoma, there are several statutes that define and give the punishment ranges for homicide crimes. We will list these various homicide charges in this article to help any potential clients and their family members better understand the various homicide statutes, and what they entail. In every murder case at Duncan & Hill Law Firm, we examine the facts and evidence the government is attempting to use to determine whether the factual scenario fits the charged crime. When your loved one has been charged with any version of a homicide crime, it is an incredibly stressful time—and hiring the right criminal defense attorney quickly, can make all the difference. Give us a call today at 918-640-4332 to schedule a free criminal defense consultation at our Oklahoma City office and we will be happy to discuss you or your loved one’s case.Murder in the First Degree
The murder charge that most of us are familiar with is found in Title 21, Section 701.7 of the Oklahoma Statutes, Murder in the First Degree. Murder in the First Degree is defined there as, “when a person unlawfully and with malice aforethought causes the death of another human being.” Every crime is comprised of several “elements” that the State of Oklahoma must prove. The element of “malice aforethought” is defined as “the deliberate intention unlawfully to take away the life of a human being.” Malice aforethought is the mens rea, or mental component of the crime in which the government must prove that a person did in fact intend to kill another person, and was not justified (think self defense) in doing so. If the State of Oklahoma is able to prove that our client did kill another person, but falls short of proving that the act occurred with malice aforethought, then they can not prove Murder in the First Degree. Further, there are defenses that exist to combat the criminal charge of Murder in the First Degree that we are happy to discuss if you call in to make a criminal defense office appointment at our Oklahoma City location. The punishment for Murder in the First Degree is life, death, or life without the possibility of parole.Murder in the First Degree: Felony Murder
Felony Murder is found in the same section of the law (Title 21, Section 701.7) and is a version of First Degree Murder that often confuses our clients more than any other homicide charge. The penalty for this charge is the same as Murder in the First Degree (life, death, or life without the possibility of parole) but how a person can become charged with it—is quite different.
A person can be charged with Felony Murder if he or she engages in certain violent crimes including (but not limited to) (1) Shooting with Intent to Kill (2) Shooting into a Dwelling (3) Rape (4) Robbery (5) Kidnapping (6) Burglary in the First Degree (7) Arson in the First Degree (8) Trafficking Drugs or (9) Manufacturing or Distributing Drugs; and a person dies as a result.
This can be confusing because the element of malice, or intent to kill, is not required. This means a person can be charged and sentenced to life imprisonment for First Degree Murder without ever having intended to kill someone—which is oftentimes contrary to what we think of with the charge of First Degree Murder. The way we as criminal defense attorneys often see this version of Homicide come up is in a drug deal turned south, or a robbery case. Every case is unique, but for example: if a client of ours and his best friend enter another person’s home with the intent to illegally sell marijuana, the deal goes south and our client’s friend is shot and killed by the buyer of marijuana—our client can be charged with Felony Murder. Think, a murder that occurs during the commission of a certain violent felony. If your loved one is facing these serious criminal charges in Oklahoma, call us today to set up a free consultation at the Oklahoma City office. We at Duncan & Hill are always happy to meet with potential clients to discuss cases and answer any questions we can.Murder in the Second Degree
The next most serious homicide is known as Murder in the Second Degree. The statute handling this crime is Title 21, Section 701.8. Murder in the Second Degree is achieved “when perpetrated by an act imminently dangerous to another person and evincing a depraved mind, regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual; or when perpetrated by a person engaged in the commission of a felony” (other than those itemized by Felony Murder). An example of Murder in the Second Degree is if a person fires a gun into a park—there may not be a specific intent to kill someone, but the act itself is so dangerous to humans, that if that bullet does in fact hit, and kill, someone—the charge would appropriately be Murder in the Second Degree. The punishment range for Murder in the Second Degree is a minimum of 10 years in prison, up to a maximum punishment of life in prison.First Degree Manslaughter
In Oklahoma, First Degree Manslaughter is found in Title 21, Section 711, and is achieved by a person doing one of three actions. First, if a person kills another person without intending to do so, but while committing a misdemeanor. For instance, if a person is texting and driving (a misdemeanor) but accidentally runs over and kills a pedestrian. The second way a person can be charged with First Degree Manslaughter is if he or she kills a person in the “heat of passion.” This is the example that many think of, when a man walks in on his wife and another man having sex—and goes into a rage killing the other man. This murder would be unplanned, and in the “heat of passion” assuming the killer was sufficiently enraged by the sexual act. The third and last way a person can be charged with First Degree Manslaughter is if he or she kills another while “resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime.” This example would be if someone saw another person stealing a car on the street—and shot at them killing them. It is not lawful for a citizen to shoot at another person for committing a crime—but it does lower the shooter’s charge from Murder in the First Degree to Manslaughter. The range of punishment for First Degree Manslaughter is a minimum of 4 years in prison, up to a maximum punishment of life in prison.Second Degree Manslaughter
Finally, a person can be charged under Title 21, Section 716 with Second Degree Manslaughter if he or she kills a person via “culpable negligence.” This is essentially a catch-all final category for murder cases, accidental murder that does not fit into one of the other categories of Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree or First Degree Manslaughter. Although these cases are very unique, an example would be if a person is intoxicated at a party and swinging a full bottle of wine around on the dance floor—accidentally striking another person in the head and killing them. Certainly, neither dancing while intoxicated nor swinging a bottle of wine around oneself is a crime, but if it were to result in another person dying… a prosecutor would likely charge Second Degree Manslaughter and call that person’s behavior “culpably negligent.” The range of punishment for this crime is either (1) a fine of $1,000 (2) between 2 years in prison and 4 years in prison or (3) up to one year in the county jail—depending on the circumstances.