Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on February 19, 2024.

Murder is one of the most serious charges someone can face. It is a highly volatile, emotional situation for both the person accused and the deceased loved ones. Prosecutors and law enforcement forcefully fight for a conviction while you, your family, and your defense attorney fight for justice on your behalf.

At Eskew Law, we are experienced criminal defense attorneys with a reputation for fighting vigorously for our clients. Here we will discuss the different types of murder charges, the penalties if someone is convicted, and some common defense strategies used to fight murder charges in Indiana.

What is Murder in Indiana?

Indiana Code § 35-42-1-1 defines the crime of murder as knowingly or intentionally killing another human being. The crime of murder is also defined as:

  • Killing another while committing or attempting to commit serious crimes
  • Killing another while manufacturing drugs
  • Killing a fetus at any stage of development

If found guilty, murder charges in Indiana carry a potential penalty of 45 to 65 years in prison.

Although you may hear of different degrees of murder on the news or while listening to true crime podcasts, Indiana does not have “degrees” of murder. Instead, Indiana law simply calls murder a felony.

While Indiana doesn’t recognize degrees of murder, the state does have other homicide offenses, including:

  • Voluntary manslaughter – murder in a “sudden heat” or “heat of the moment” 
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Reckless homicide

Voluntary manslaughter is a level 2 felony, whereas involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide are both level 5 felonies. Level 2 felonies carry a sentence of imprisonment between 10 and 30 years. Level 5 felonies carry a sentence of imprisonment between 1 and 6 years.

What Are Potential Defenses to a Murder Charge in Indiana?

It is impossible to know what the best defense for your case might be without thoroughly analyzing the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. However, there are some lines of defense that do occur more frequently in a murder case. Below are some potential defenses to a murder charge in Indiana.

Self Defense

Indiana law recognizes the right to defend yourself by using deadly force. Indiana Code § 35-41-3-2 indicates that you can use reasonable force to protect yourself or another from what you believe to be the imminent use of unlawful force.

You can use deadly force if needed, and you have no duty to retreat if you need to prevent serious bodily harm or the commission of a forcible felony. The trier of fact, usually a jury, would then have to determine if they felt your response to the threat was reasonable under the circumstances. 

This right extends to preventing or terminating another person’s unlawful entry or attack in your dwelling, cartilage, or occupied motor vehicle. Although Indiana law has robust allowances for protecting yourself, or others, those actions will always be evaluated by law enforcement, prosecutors, and possibly a judge or jurors who were not in that life-threatening situation. This makes it especially important to have an attorney with experience and skill in presenting your defense.

Alibi Defense

Frequently in a murder case, the accused was somewhere else when the murder occurred. This defense has strict deadlines, and it is important to lock in the evidence needed to raise this defense and to provide notice to the prosecutor’s and the court that you intend to raise this defense. For that reason, it is extremely important to discuss this issue with your attorney immediately. 

Additional Defense Strategies

The most obvious defense in a murder case is that the person charged did not commit the offense. Such a defense can be supported by developing alternative suspects, challenging the credibility of witnesses, or just challenging the sufficiency of the evidence that the State is relying on in its prosecution.

This may include legal challenges of forensic evidence like DNA analysis, fingerprint, or firearms evidence. Sound analysis and challenges by an experienced attorney can make a major difference in the strength of that evidence, or even potentially exclude it altogether.

Many other factors must be considered in preparing a strong challenge to a murder charge. Every case has its considerations, and avenues that must be explored to develop the best possible defense. Some of those issues can range from the mental health/state of mind of the defendant, a victim’s history/propensity for violence, and any interest/bias of witnesses. 

An experienced, skilled attorney, with a history of success in developing and presenting an effective defense, is your best chance when facing a murder charge. Our team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys is ready to help protect your rights.

If you’re facing murder charges or other criminal charges in Indiana, contact us today at 317-974-0177 for an immediate consultation. At Eskew Law, we have the trial experience you need and the legal representation you deserve.

Author Photo
Chris Eskew

Chris Eskew is the founding partner of Eskew Law. With over 15 years of experience, he focuses his practice on criminal defense, DUI defense, and family law. Chris is known for his dedication to his clients, his strong advocacy skills, and his commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes in legal matters. He is well-respected within the legal community and has earned a reputation for providing personalized and effective representation.