• Jay P. Mykytiuk
    Jay P. Mykytiuk Criminal Defense Attorney
    Washington, DC & Northern VA
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Heat of Passion: When Murder Becomes Manslaughter

This is part II of my explanation of Washington, D.C. homicide laws and their consequences. As previously noted in part I, a Second Degree Murder (“SDM”) charge can be reduced to Voluntary Manslaughter (“VM”) when certain mitigating circumstances are present.  A Manslaughter conviction is preferable to a SDM conviction because the penalties are less severe.  Of course, you don’t just have to settle for a VM conviction if you are ever facing homicide charges.  An experienced D.C. criminal defense attorney can ensure that you have the strongest defense and that your rights are adequately protected.

Voluntary Manslaughter is defined as an intentional homicide committed under extenuating circumstances which mitigate, but do not justify or excuse, the killing.  Mitigating circumstances are present in two situations. The first is when the defendant acts in the heat of passion caused by adequate provocation.

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"We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes:" Murder Defense in D.C.

For the majority of us, the closest contact we have with murder is watching make-believe victims on television or movies. However, as Norman Bates concisely explained in the movie Psycho, we all have a breaking point, and for an unlucky few, fiction becomes reality.

In the District of Columbia, the law recognizes two murder offenses: First Degree Murder (“FDM”) and Second Degree Murder (“SDM”).  There are two types of FDM, Premeditated Murder and Felony Murder, and only one type of SDM.

For Premeditated Murder, the government must prove that the defendant intentionally caused the death of another after a period of premeditation and deliberation.  This means that the government has to prove that a defendant had time to think about killing someone before actually committing the murder. The law does not require that premeditation and deliberation take any particular amount of time.  Forming intent to kill and deliberating about it may be instantaneous, and the government only has to prove the fact of malice aforethought, not the length of time it lasted.  The biggest difference between FDM and SDM is premeditation and deliberation. 

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