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Harrisburg Homicide Attorneys

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.

Arrested for homicide? Turn to our Harrisburg homicide lawyers for aggressive defense. Contact us today!

The Four Types of Murder Under Pennsylvania 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 Harrisburg homicide attorneys represent both adults and juveniles in Pennsylvania criminal courts.

What if the Case Goes to a Jury?

Our Harrisburg homicide 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.

Facing charges for homicide? Get defense by contacting Shaffer & Engle Law Offices today.

What Our
clients Have to Say

  • 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

  • Mr. Engle was able to explain the laws in PA and got the job done in days.

    “I am an attorney in the state of Washington. I have a family law client who was in desperate need of legal assistance in PA. The case against him was affecting his ability to work. Mr. Engle contacted me as soon as my email was received and helped my client. Mr. Engle was able to explain the laws in PA and got the job done in days. I have never encountered another attorney as eager to help and get the job done. I would highly recommend Mr. Engle to anyone.”


  • Personal attention, effectiveness, and professionalism

    “When I called their phone number, I got an actual human who explained some preliminary things, and then I was transferred to Attorney Engle for further discussion. Who even does that these days? In a world of offshore phone centers and online forms, it was really nice to have the personal attention of people who took the time to actually help me through the process. After searching for legal representation and finding a hundred glitzy, showboating websites with cookie-cutter online contact forms, choosing Attorney Engle was a no-brainer. I found the rates to be incredibly affordable, and I certainly can't forget to mention the fast, positive outcome.”



    “Shaffer & Engle helped me through the most traumatic turning point in my life where I felt so alone and had no support except the fact that I needed to get through my disposition to ensure I would be able to continue to excel in my college studies and provide a better life for my young daughter who I am raising alone. They provided me with encouraging words and any possible leads they had come across. I was amazed at how caring my attorney was regarding matters outside of the actual case! After court, I was able to come home and continue to be a rock for my family. Since, I have recently ran out of funding 29 credits shy of my degree but still proud to finish the last semester with a 4.0 gpa making the Deans List five times still maintain work having also begun raising my orphaned seventeen year old god daughter who I came to know as one of the trouble kids at my local Boys & Girls Club where I was hired after completing the community service requirements in my case. I do not receive any financial help from government programs for my budding family but I begged for them to take money for their exceptional service and they refused. I am forever grateful for their kindness and love each time that I look at my girls. Like my title says BEYOND AMAZING...”

    Jaimeen A.

  • 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