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Homicide Attorneys in Harrisburg

Protecting Your Rights & Fighting for Your Freedom

The criminal charge of homicide has two components: Action and intent. That's important to know because a charge of first-degree homicide carries a life sentence without parole, or the death penalty. If there are extenuating circumstances that can cast doubt on intent, then there are options for a case to be made for a lesser offense.

  • Criminally insane?
  • Under the influence of medication?
  • Accidental homicide by misadventure?
  • Homicide by DUI when you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

If it is possible to negate the element of specific intent to kill, the prosecutor may only be able to charge third-degree homicide, which carries a sentence of 20 to 40 years. No matter how bad it is, there are always ways to lessen the offense.

The Four Types of Murder Under State Law

The criminalization for this crime is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2501. Also known as "homicide," murder is the intentional and unlawful killing of another.

There are three types of murder and a fourth charge known as manslaughter:

  • First degree — This is the intentional killing of another. The penalty for this offense is life in jail without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty. At Shaffer & Engle, we are death penalty certified by the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA).
  • Second degree — This is also known as "felony murder" because it is any murder that occurs when one is the primary actor or an accomplice in the commission of a felony, such as robbery, burglary, rape, kidnapping, or arson. The penalty for this offense is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
  • Third degree — Murder of the third degree is a felony one, meaning it has a maximum penalty of 40 years’ imprisonment. A murder that is committed with "malice" is a third-degree offense. Malice is a hardness of heart or wanton disregard that your actions may lead to the death of another. For example, leaving an individual that is three years old in the woods on a cold winter night is done with "malice." You know that the possible outcome of your actions is that they will die.
  • Manslaughter — There are two types of manslaughter: Voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another under circumstances of intense passion. For example, finding your spouse in bed with another may lead to one or more deaths. If the killing is done "in the heat of the moment" it may be voluntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is a criminally negligent homicide. If one is grossly negligent or careless in the manner in which they are acting, they may cause the death of another.

The ways in which murder are properly defended are by proof that the defendant was not the individual that caused the death. Or, proof that their intent was not to cause the death of another. Alternatively, that they were legally "justified" or acted in self-defense of themselves or another is grounds to exculpate one from the charge of murder.

Voluntary Intoxication Is a Defense to First Degree Murder

It is a defense to first-degree murder only that at the time the defendant caused the death of another, he or she was under the influence of a drug or alcohol to such a degree that rendered him or her unable to formulate the specific intent to kill. This is the only crime that allows such a defense. All other crimes do not permit voluntary intoxication as a legal defense.

Insanity Is a Defense to First Degree Murder

It is a defense to first-degree murder by a showing of the defendant that at the time of the murder, they were unable to formulate the specific intent to kill due to a mental illness. In some instances, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or some other type of psychiatric illness or mental handicap. In essence, the mental disorder prevented them from being able to premeditate. The result of such defense may be a lowered intent on the part of the defendant, thus resulting in a conviction for another type of murder.

A Strong Defense for Those Facing Charges for Violent Crimes

At Shaffer & Engle, Harrisburg homicide lawyers Jeffrey Engle and Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Esq. will thoroughly investigate every aspect of your case, protect your rights, and fight for the results you need. You can trust them to provide you with the strong representation you deserve.

We each have extensive experience defending clients facing state and federal criminal charges for violent crimes such as:

  • Murder
  • Gun crimes
  • Manslaughter
  • Weapons offenses

Our attorneys represent both adults and juveniles in Pennsylvania criminal courts.

What if the Case Goes to a Jury?

Our lawyers understand the risks you face in a jury trial. If it is to your advantage, we will negotiate for reduced charges and a lesser sentence. When our case is strong and the prosecutor's evidence is questionable, we stand a good chance of success in bargaining. In particular, Mr. Engle's past experience as a prosecutor helps him identify weaknesses in the prosecution's case.

Call (717) 268-4287 for a Free Consultation

If you have been charged with homicide or any other violent crime, contact a Harrisburg homicide attorney at Shaffer & Engle. Our lawyers also serve clients throughout Dauphin County.

What Our
Clients Have to Say

  • He took the time to explain the process, understand the facts of my case and provide suggestions like retaining a private investigator.

    “I came to Shaffer & Engle Law Offices searching for hope after I entered a plea in my criminal case. I had a false allegation filed against me for a sexual offense that I did not commit. I was involved with another lawyer for 2 ½ years, when it came down to day before court we felt he was not prepared to represent me. I either took the plea of "Nolo Contendere" or went to jail the day of the trial. I felt trapped. I had this allegation against me and I was innocent. I met with the Attorney Engle. He took the time to explain the process, understand the facts of my case and provide suggestions like retaining a private investigator. He offered to represent me and quickly moved to withdraw my guilty plea. That was granted by the court and we proceeded to prepare for trial. They uncovered many things that our other lawyer did not bother to investigate. They met with character witnesses after hours to make sure my defense would be solid. Long story short, the DA in my case withdrew the charges. I went from a convicted man to completely being vindicated. Shaffer and Engle Law Offices also were able to assist me in another matter relating to the criminal case, but in civil court. The same results, all charges were dismissed. I appreciate the work they did, their prompt service, care and attention they showed to me and my family. I found their services to be affordable when compared to what they did for me. I would highly recommend them for anyone charged with a crime that they did not do.”

    JH

  • Outcome of the case was the best possible under the circumstances.

    “Very professional and upfront. Reviewed the facts of my case with me in a realistic manner and gave me excellent advice. Did not push hiring the firm on me but let me know exactly what I needed to do if I chose to have her firm represent me. Outcome of the case was the best possible under the circumstances. Well done and thank you!”

    TP

  • He treats you with respect, has a great personality, keeps you informed, makes you feel comfortable, and takes time to answer any questions.

    “Hired the Law Office to handle the new Adam Walsh Act law going into effect December 20, 2012. State of PA and State Police was requiring that I register under the new law. Not only required to register but also changing my Tier level from Tier 1 to Tier Pending. Originally was required to register as a Tier 1 for 10 years but under the new law they were requiring to register for life. Attorney Engle took the case and fought from the day he was hired until the case was resolved. This is the only Law Firm I have dealt with that work diligently and kept us well informed throughout the case. Our case Won on two levels: 1. I am no longer required to register under the new Adam Walsh Act. 2. Successfully removed my name from the Sex Offender Registry. I am no longer listed on State or Federal Megan Law web site. I have worked with several Law firms over the past 10 years and Attorney Engle is the best Attorney. He treats you with respect, has a great personality, keeps you informed, makes you feel comfortable, and takes time to answer any questions. He fought for my rights where not too many attorneys out there will. AND he WON our case against the State Attorney General and the Pennsylvania State Police. I will recommend this Law Firm to anyone that need legal representation no matter what the case might be. Big or small this is the law firm you want to hire. I cannot nor can anyone predict the same outcome but they will fight for your best interest.”

    Former client

  • Jeff presents himself as a very knowledgeable and able attorney with sincere personal interest in the success of your case.

    “From the minute you call Jeff Engle's office, you are treated with first class respect and service. Jeff is very up front about his experience, results and belief in the success or possible issues with your case. From the time of retainment, Jeff's use of electronic forms of communication keep you up to date to the minute whenever there are developments and progress in your case. This type of communication is nearly unheard of in ANY profession. Many times, I knew that Jeff was taking his personal time to communicate with me. Jeff presents himself as a very knowledgeable and able attorney with sincere personal interest in the success of your case. During times of uncertainty, having someone of Jeff's demeanor at your side will simply make you feel that no matter what the outcome may be, he is right there with you. There was not one time during the course of my case that I felt Jeff was not thoughtful and prepared for. I cannot say enough for the level of professionalism this man presents while representing you as a client.”

    Kevin

  • He has a great personality and makes you feel welcome and comfortable.

    “Mr. Engle took our case and worked diligently from the time we hired his firm until our case was resolved. In addition he kept us well informed throughout the process with emails, letters, and phone conversations. I have worked with a number of law firms in the past 10 plus years and Attorney Engle is one of the best. He does not make you feel as if you are a burden to him when you ask questions. He has a great personality and makes you feel welcome and comfortable. He makes no promises due to the fact he is not a fortune teller but he will do everything possible to have a positive outcome for your case. I recommend Attorney Engle and his Law Firm and hold nothing but positive praise for him and his team.”

    Paul W.