How to Defend Against Murder Charges

Although facing criminal charges for murder is frightening, it is possible to mount a strong defense against such accusations to clear your name and restore your reputation. Below, our experienced criminal defense lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP explain how to devise a complete defense if you are accused of murder.

#1: Failure to Prove the Elements

To convict a person of first-degree murder, prosecutors must prove specific elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:

  • The killing of another individual
  • Specific intent to kill
  • Deliberation
  • Premeditation

If one of the elements listed above is absent from the case, then the crime doesn't constitute first-degree murder. However, it might still satisfy elements for second-degree murder or manslaughter.

#2: Mistaken Identity

The mistaken identity defense requires you to prove that the prosecution charged the wrong person with the crime. This requires a strong alibi with specific evidence to support that you were at a different location at the time of the murder. You can also challenge evidence that links you to the scene of the crime, such as forensic evidence and witness accounts.

#3: Accidental Killing

If a person was killed as a result of an accident, then it usually won’t constitute murder. It is important to note that an accidental killing can result in liability for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. If an accidental homicide occurs during the commission of a crime or as a result of other criminal intentions, then the defendant can face first-degree or second-degree murder.

#4: Justification

There are a number of ways that a defendant can argue that the killing of another person was justified and therefore should not be considered first-degree murder:

  • Self-Defense: The defendant must prove that the killing was the result of the reasonable use of force to resist a credible fear of death or bodily harm. The type of force used in self-defense must be proportional to the perceived threat and the defendant must not have instigated the threatening situation.
  • Defense of Others: Defendants can argue that the killing was justifiable if they had to use force to defend another person from suffering bodily harm. The same requirements for self-defense generally apply to this defense strategy as well.
  • Exercise of Duty: This defense strategy applies to law enforcement and other public officers. State laws protect officers from being prosecuted for killings when excessive force is not used. If an officer kills someone while upholding their duty and without unlawful intent, recklessness, or negligence, then the incident usually won’t constitute murder.

Our Murder Defense Team is Here to Fight for You

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we understand that being accused of murder does not necessarily mean you are guilty. That is why our talented criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to helping clients overcome murder charges. When you choose our firm to represent you, we will fight aggressively for a dismissal or acquittal of the charges. We know how to expose the prosecution's mistakes, which is why we will thoroughly review the facts of your case so we can devise a strong defense strategy.

If you’re ready to speak with an attorney at our law office in Los Angeles, then please call (800) 462-7160 today to schedule a consultation.