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Murder Charges in Virginia

When you or someone you love is facing a violent crime, the dangers and potential consequences could not be higher. You need a lawyer who will forcefully attack the Commonwealth’s case at trial whether it be charges of murder or manslaughter. The charges against you will typically be determined by the manner of death of the person who was killed. The circumstances and facts surrounding the death can lead to charges of manslaughter or murder/homicide.


The charge of Manslaughter generally occurs when there is an unlawful killing and there is no evidence of malice. Malice is sometimes considered to be when someone has ill will towards the person, but Virginia Common law defines it as doing of a wrongful act intentionally, or without just cause or excuse, OR as a result of ill will. So that’s why there are varying levels of manslaughter having to do with the wrongful act that was committed. Both levels are class five felonies with a penalty of up to ten years in prison.

  • Voluntary Manslaughter occurs during the heat of passion/moment where the accused reacts to some form of provocation. There is no premeditation (advanced planning) for manslaughter.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter occurs when the death is caused accidentally by an unlawful act or improperly performing a lawful act. The performance of the lawful act must be so gross, wanton, and culpable that it shows a reckless disregard for human life.
  • DUI Manslaughter or Vehicular Manslaughter occurs when EITHER there is an involuntary manslaughter that involves a DUI OR it can be a traffic accident that shows the operation of the motor vehicle was criminal negligent, disregarding human life, such as racing or extremely excessive speeds. This could be charged as aggravated involuntary manslaughter which increased the penalty to up to twenty years in prison.


Murder is the most serious offense in the Commonwealth. Proof that the victim has died and that the death resulted from a wound from the accused leads to murder charges. Almost every murder in the Virginia starts off as Second-Degree Murder. There needs to be the presence of certain aggravating factors in place to charge First-Degree Murder.

  • First Degree Murder is the willful, deliberate, premeditated killing of another accomplished by lying in wait, imprisonment, poison, or starvation. First-degree murder is a Class 2 felony punishable by twenty years to life in prison.
  • Felony Murder is the same as above but committed in specific instances of violent felonies such as Arson, Rape, Robbery or Abduction, etc. The act of the violent felony is planned and premeditated but the murder may not be, however because of the violent nature of the crimes it is charged as first-degree murder.
  • Second Degree Murder is the unlawful killing of another with malice which we discussed earlier. Second-degree murder is punishable by five years to forty years in prison.
  • Felony Homicide is the same as above but is further defined as the killing of one accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties, while in the prosecution of some felonious act that isn’t the serious ones listed above.
  • Capital Murder is the only crime in Virginia that is punishable by death. The act includes a killing committed as a part of such crimes such as murder-for-hire, abduction, during the commission of a premeditated robbery or rape. Killing a public service official such as a law enforcement officer may also receive capital murder charges.

When you are facing serious crimes such as murder or manslaughter, you need trial attorneys who will prepare you a serious defense. Defenses such as an alibi – being in a different place than where the murder was committed – or self-defense – a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily hard from the other party – require preparation and witnesses. Most homicide cases proceed to trial because both the defense and prosecution have a tremendous amount at stake. As a result, you want a criminal defense lawyer who is not only familiar with the laws, prosecutors, police and courts but one with extensive trial experience. With Invictus be confident that your attorney is ready to fight to protect your rights in court.

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