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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

  • We felt she was the strongest legal advocate we could have and feel very fortunate that she represented us.

    “We found Elizabeth Pasqualini to be fully engaged in all aspects of our case. She was proactive, caring and accessible. We felt she was the strongest legal advocate we could have and feel very fortunate that she represented us. We highly recommend her.”

    J.C.

  • Jeff provided us with clear advice and immediate responses to my multitude of questions and concerns.

    “Jeff provided us with clear advice and immediate responses to my multitude of questions and concerns. We are grateful our case is finally settled and would certainly recommend him.”

    Former Client

  • Not only did Jeff know what he was doing, but he did everything that he said he would in a timely fashion.

    “Jeff is is fourth attorney that I have worked with regarding custody of my son. My previous attorneys were neither knowledgeable of the law as it applied to my case nor followed through on the actions they said they would take. Not only did Jeff know what he was doing, but he did everything that he said he would in a timely fashion. Given that my case involved an international relocation, allocation of sole custody for residency purposes...”

    Anonymous

  • You really did make a "federal case" of my situation!

    “Elisabeth, You are the best! I can't express how upset I was when I discovered that my builder committed fraud and lied to me about the quality and condition of my new house. It was a huge investment for me and he put me in a bad financial situation. I was cautiously hopeful when you told me you could help. When you got me a judgment for $130,000 plus- three times the amount of my damages- I was amazed! Thanks so much for all of your hard work and dedication. You really did make a "federal case" of my situation! With the money you won for me, I can finally enjoy my home. P.P.”

    P.P.

  • They handled everything beautifully and were able to minimize our anxiety throughout a difficult process.

    “Jeff is the fourth attorney that I have worked with regarding custody of my son. My previous attorneys were neither knowledgeable of the law as it applied to my case nor followed through on the actions they said they would take. Not only did Jeff know what he was doing, but he did everything that he said he would in a timely fashion. Given that my case involved an international relocation, allocation of sole custody for residency purposes abroad, and a non-custodial parent who was anything but cooperative, there was a high likelihood that my case would be unsuccessful with even the potential of being ordered to return to the US to maintain physical custody of my son. Today my child and I are happily living abroad and I was able to obtain the residency permit for my son to remain here. I attribute the success of my case to Jeff and his firm. They handled everything beautifully and were able to minimize our anxiety throughout a difficult process. Thank you!”

    Former Client