Criminal Homicide Lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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Table of Contents

What is Homicide
Voluntary Manslaughter
Involuntary Manslaughter
Beat a homicide charge

Pennsylvania views homicidal acts as grave offenses. Homicide generally involves causing a person’s death intentionally or negligently. Persons found guilty of criminal homicide in Pittsbrugh face several degrees of penalties.

A murderer’s penalties depend on the separate criminal offenses they commit. A Pittsburgh criminal murder case may involve unique facts and circumstances that determine whether a person must face charges.

Pennsylvania law classifies homicide based on a case’s circumstances. Here is a closer look into how the state determines a homicidal crime and assigns penalties to each offense.

What Is a Homicide?

A homicide is a person’s action killing another. This general term may refer to criminal acts and non-criminal acts. Non-criminal homicide cases may involve a person killing another in self-defense. Meanwhile, criminal homicide may include cases where a person deliberately kills another out of rage. Under Pennsylvania law, criminal homicide classifications include murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughte.


Pennsylvania law cites three types of murder charges that vary between the first and third degrees. Here is an overview of each charge.

Murder of the First Degree

This criminal homicide case involves intentional killing. First-degree murders usually include premeditated acts that lead to the death of a person, such as poisoning a person. In other words, qualifying first-degree murders include anything that involves careful plans to kill someone.

The law also considers lying in wait as a murder of the first degree. Lying in wait serves as evidence that a person’s death was malicious in nature. This action involves waiting for a victim to appear and then killing the target in an ambush.

Penalties for first-degree murders include a mandatory life sentence without parole possibility. Parole is early release under certain conditions. Without this possibility, the murderer will remain in prison for life. The murderer may also face the death penalty.

Murder of the Second Degree

Second-degree murders are criminal homicide cases that involve a person engaged in another felony as the principal perpetrator or accomplice. In other words, a person’s death is a consequence of an unrelated action. Some felonies that may result in a person’s death include:

  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Drug dealing
  • Drug trafficking
  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Robbery

Mandatory penalties for second-degree murder in Pennsylvania include life in prison with no parole chances. Anyone involved in a murder case of the second degree may be convicted felons, whether they are principals or accomplices. Even the getaway driver in a bank robbery may face life in prison without parole if a person dies in the process of the felony.

Murder of the Third Degree

The law classifies “all other kinds of murder” as qualified third-degree murders. Events that lead to a person’s death must not have been premediated nor a consequence of another felony to count as a murder of the third degree.

For instance, a person may have fired a gun in a crowd celebrating an event of sorts. The shooting may have resulted in another’s death. The shooter had no intentions of killing a person, nor was committing a felony. Thus, the shooter has committed murder of the third degree.

Despite third-degree murders not involving a felonious act, these types of murder count as first-degree felonies. Conviction of such felonies may lead to a penalty of up to 20 years in jail.

Self-defense and defense of others are common defenses against third-degree murder charges. An experienced Pennsylvania homicide lawyer can determine whether a person may avoid conviction for a murder of the third degree. Consider getting a professional to review your case and see if it constitutes a non-criminal offense.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony involving senseless killing. A person may commit voluntary manslaughter as a passionate act after their victim provoked them to the point of harming them.

The attacker’s passionate act may have accidentally caused their victim to die, making the crime a negligent act. Otherwise, the killer may have intentionally killed another person believing they have a legal justification for committing such an act.

For instance, a killer may have pulled the trigger on their neighbor due to a petty misunderstanding. The misunderstanding may have enraged the killer to the point of killing them in one shot. This case may get complicated even further when the killer may have only meant to warn the neighbor, but things did not turn out how they intended.

Convicted felons of voluntary manslaughter may serve up to 20 years in jail.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor involving a consequential death due to grossly negligent acts. In other words, a person guilty of involuntary manslaughter may have been reckless in their actions, resulting in another person’s death.

A person may be grossly negligent while committing legal or illegal acts. For instance, an unlawful act where a person may be reckless would be driving under the influence of mind-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs. A passenger may have died as a direct result of this DUI example.

Meanwhile, legal actions may include carnival ride operators who failed to secure a victim’s seatbelt. Although the operator did not intend to cause death, they have been grossly negligent with their actions. As such, they may face charges for involuntary manslaughter.

As a first-degree misdemeanor, convicted felons of involuntary manslaughter face up to five years in jail.

Conclusion: How Do You Beat a Pennsylvania Homicide Charge?

You have better chances of beating a Pennsylvania homicide charge with professional legal representation. Homicide lawyers understand the different types of murder and manslaughter cases that locals may face. Our top-rated Pittsburgh lawyers will review your case and then determine your options based on your circumstances.

Depending on your specific homicide charges, you may face varying levels of penalties. For instance, you may face the death penalty if you face a first-degree murder charge. Consider our professional Pennsylvania homicide lawyers to review your case and represent your best interests.

Get in touch with our legal experts to resolve your criminal concerns and uphold your rights. Call us today at (412) 413-9023.