Published in Criminal Law by Ben Jaffe on September 6, 2023.
Murder charges are the most serious criminal charges you can face. Emotions are high on both sides of the aisle. Prosecutors, police, and the deceased’s family forcefully fight for a conviction while you and your family fight for justice on your behalf. In this situation, you need a tough, reliable, and experienced attorney to give you the best defense possible.
At Eskew Law, we are experienced criminal defense advocates with a reputation for fighting vigorously for our clients. What are potential defenses to a Murder charge in Indiana? When you ask us that question, we are fully prepared to rely on our experience, trial skills, and dedication to delivering justice to strategize the best defense possible for your specific case. Today, we will discuss some common defenses.
What Is Murder in Indiana?
Before we can discuss defenses to murder, you need to understand what murder is in Indiana. According to Indiana Code § 35-42-1-1, in summary Murder is:
- Knowingly or intentionally killing another human being;
- Killing another while committing or attempting to commit serious crimes;
- Killing another while dealing/manufacturing drugs;
- Killing a fetus at any stage of development.
Unlike other states, Indiana does not recognize degrees of murder. Instead, Indiana law simply calls murder a felony.
Although Indiana does not recognize degrees of murder, the State does have lesser-included homicide offenses. Those offenses include:
- Voluntary manslaughter, or a murder in “sudden heat” (a Level 2 felony)
- Involuntary manslaughter, and/or Reckless homicide (both level 5 felonies)
The circumstances of a killing must be considered in order to support a conviction of one of these alternatives instead of murder. It’s important to have a strong advocate who can do a thorough analysis and development of all of the facts in a murder case in order to support a potential lesser offense.
Homicide Punishments in Indiana
Indiana judges have little discretion when fashioning a murder sentence. The law provides for a 46 to 65-year sentence. There are also circumstances that could support a sentence of life without parole or the death penalty
The penalties for manslaughter are still felony punishments but less severe. Level 2 felonies carry between 10 and 30 years. A Level 5 felony carries between 1 and 6 years imprisonment.
Murder Defenses in Indiana
Now that we have defined murder and the possible penalties, we can answer the question, What are potentiat 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 of the incident. However, there are some lines of defense we explore in almost every murder case.
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 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. 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.
An accidental killing means there was no intent to kill. This could be a complete defense to a murder charge, or alternatively support your charge being reduced from murder to involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide. As we discussed above, the penalty for involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide is a lot less severe than a murder conviction.
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 their 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.
Additionally, thorough analysis regarding statements given to investigators, and/or evidence seized in any investigation is of paramount importance in murder cases. The potential for suppression of improperly taken statements, or illegally seized evidence can support the suppression or exclusion of that evidence in any prosecution.
There are many more factors that must be considered in preparing a strong challenge to a murder charge. Every case has its own considerations, and avenues that must be explored to develop the best possible defense. Some of those issues can range from mental health/state of mind of the defendant, a victim’s history/propensity for violence, 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 and diligent defense lawyers is ready to help you fight for your freedom.