Murder is the most serious criminal charge in the state of South Carolina. Due to the severe nature of the offense, the potential penalties are particularly harsh and can include a life sentence in prison or even the death penalty.

If you are charged with murder or a related offense, you need a relentless criminal defense attorney who could work to disprove the allegations against you. You deserve a proactive defense strategy that takes into account the specifics of your case. Contact a North Charleston murder lawyer immediately to learn how our firm could help defend your rights.

Definition of Murder in North Charleston

A murder occurs under South Carolina law when one person kills another with “malice aforethought.” This means that the act of taking someone’s life alone does not necessarily constitute murder. Malice aforethought is a specific and crucial element of the crime that a prosecutor must prove in court.

What is Malice Aforethought?

Malice aforethought refers to the mental state a person has when killing another human being. The prosecutor must prove this element in order to convict a North Charleston resident on murder charges.

Malice aforethought can encompass several different mentalities, including:

  • Specific intent to kill
  • A reckless indifference to human life
  • Intent to commit a felony
  • Intent to commit assault
  • A plan designed to end the life of another person

A prosecutor may attempt to prove this element in multiple ways. They may try to show that the attack was pre-planned by establishing a motive for the killing. A local murder defense lawyer could fight tirelessly on a defendant’s behalf to counter these claims in North Charleston court. However, if the prosecutor fails to prove malice aforethought, the defendant may still be found guilty of a lesser offense, such as manslaughter.

What are the Penalties for Murder?

A conviction for murder is punishable by a prison sentence of a minimum of thirty years and a maximum of life. If certain aggravating factors are present, the death penalty may also be a possibility. An experienced North Charleston attorney could advise on the penalties a defendant might face and recommend a defense strategy for the unique circumstances of their murder case.

Offenses Related to Murder

Under state law, there are several offenses related to the killing of another human being that do not meet the criteria for murder. These include the following:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter: This offense occurs when the killing is purposeful but did not occur with malice aforethought. Possible sentencing is two to thirty years in prison.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter: This charge is brought when one unintentionally kills another person as a result of “criminal negligence” or a reckless disregard for others’ safety. A conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years.
  • Reckless Vehicular Homicide: This offense occurs when a defendant operates a motor vehicle with reckless disregard for others’ safety and it results in another person’s death. The maximum prison sentence for this charge is ten years.

These offenses carry lower penalties than murder charges but can still lead to decades in prison. A rigorous defense lawyer could fight on behalf of accused North Charleston residents to potentially reduce or dismiss their murder charges.

Schedule a Consultation with a North Charleston Murder Attorney Today

A murder accusation has the potential to foreclose your future and radically change your life. Thankfully, you do not have to face these charges alone. Contact our experienced criminal defense team today to learn how a skilled North Charleston murder lawyer could help defend your constitutional rights.