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Common forms of defense for second-degree murder charges

Second-degree murder is classed as an unlawful killing committed with a clear intention to take the target's life but without prior planning or deliberation. Any slaying caused by the reckless and hazardous activities of the culprit will also be classed as second-degree murder.

The most basic form of defense against second-degree murder is that of innocence, and it is also the most recurrent. The defense can claim that the defendant did not commit the crime and is innocent but must provide evidence to back this claim. This evidence can be in the form of an alibi or through other evidence that disputes the claims of the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime and if the defense can present enough evidence to provide reasonable doubt then most likely the charges will be dropped. Insanity is another form of defense used in many states, but it is not allowed in all. The defense claims that the defendant was not capable of making rational decisions at the time of the crime either due to mental illness or insanity thus cannot be held liable for the crime committed. Even if mental illness is proven, it does not mean that the culprit will not be held accountable for his actions, under most states the charges will remain though some leniency may be given to reduce the sentence. Where allowed, if full insanity is clinically proven, then the defendant cannot be held accountable for his actions.

Self-defense is the form of defense where it is claimed that the defendant only took actions that lead to the victim's death due to self-defense. If it is proven that the killing was indeed due to self-defense, then the defendant might not be held liable. The following elements must exist if a self-defense claim is to hold up in court:

  • The defendant must not be the cause of the killing.
  • The defendant must not be present in a forbidden location.
  • The defendant must only act in retaliation and must not be the initiator of the violence.
  • The defendant must be in a situation where he was forced to reasonably fear for his life.
  • The defendant must have attempted to escape the situation. 

Second-degree murder charges are very serious and carry severe repercussions. An experienced attorney can help you get the best possible outcome.

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