The death of another human being is always a serious matter, whether the death was accidental or on purpose, whether the victim was killed by a machine malfunction or a bullet. Understandably, the law treats fatalities very seriously, but it may surprise you to learn that there are different degrees of fatality in the eyes of the law. If you are charged with murdering someone, it is important to know exactly which crime you are accused of.
There is no way in which a homicide conviction will not be serious, but depending on the crime of which you are accused, the penalties could be significantly less than expected. Even if there is absolutely no way you can avoid being convicted of killing another individual, you can have a charge reduced from first-degree murder to second-degree murder, resulting in significantly reduced legal penalties.
Generally speaking, first-degree murders are murders that are premeditated and carried out from beginning to end with the express purpose of ending another life. Second-degree murders are generally not planned out and often happen impulsively in the heat of the moment, or are accidental murders that result from intended bodily harm without desire to kill. Unfortunately, these distinctions can be difficult to prove in front of a judge.
It is worth noting that the complete difference between first- and second-degree murders often varies from state to state, so if you are accused of a murder in Louisiana, it is highly recommended that you meet with an attorney to discuss your case. Legal assistance can help you understand second-degree murders in your area, and can help you build a defense case to have your charges dropped or reduced.