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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 lawyer Jeffrey Engle will thoroughly investigate every aspect of your case, protect your rights, and fight for the results you need. You can trust him 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

  • 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

  • Your firm was truly a blessing to me and I would recommend anybody needing legal assistance to seek the best with Shaffer and Engle Law Firm.

    “Thank you Jeff Engle and staff for all the hard work on my case. I was very pleased with the service that was provided to me as well as the outcome. Your firm was truly a blessing to me and I would recommend anybody needing legal assistance to seek the best with Shaffer and Engle Law Firm.”

    T.B.

  • Mr. Engle took my matter as if it were his own and followed through to the end.

    “I contacted Mr. Engle back in August. My custody case had originated in Delaware in 2013 and was the final hearing was held in May of 2015. After the other party objected DE having jurisdiction, he took matters into his own hands and got PA involved - where he lives. In a panic I called Mr. Engle after being referred to him by my DE attorney. Even though I wasn't a client and I did not have an appointment scheduled, Mr Engle took the time out to hear the background information, calm me down and come to, what I thought, was a good conclusion. Fast forward 4 months later and every email, phone call and frantic visit to his office was greeted with kindness and patience...and if he was unavailable, his staff showed the same warm professionalism. I could be sure that I would hear back from him within the same business day - sometimes even on his downtime after hours - or first thing in the morning. Mr. Engle took my matter as if it were his own and followed through to the end. I would not hesitate to call on Mr. Engle again if the occasion ever arose.”

    Rebekah

  • He follows up with his clients quickly so you are at ease knowing what the status of your situation is.

    “I can’t begin to say how great Mr. Engle was on SUPER short notice. I’m from out of state and I have to say he was quick to respond and had answers to my questions. It was an INCREDIBLE relief to have him in my corner, I can’t tell you how invaluable that is. He follows up with his clients quickly so you are at ease knowing what the status of your situation is. You are in fantastic and capable hands with Mr. Engle.”

    Jessie C.

  • He treated me with respect and always made me feel like my case was his only priority.

    “Because I live out of state, I needed representation that I could trust to best represent me and my interests. Jeff Engle provided regular, thorough counsel throughout the legal process. He treated me with respect and always made me feel like my case was his only priority.”

    KH