Georgia Murder and Violent Crimes
Murder occurs when an individual with premeditated malice unlawfully causes another person to die. The element of malice may be satisfied by showing an express or implied form of malice. The law also states that an individual commits murder when he causes the death of another while engaging in a felony. In such cases, malice does not have to be proven. The punishment for a conviction of murder is death or imprisonment for life.
Murder is reduced to a charge of voluntary manslaughter when the defendant’s actions are due to a passion that is impulsive, aggressive, and irresistible stemming from a grave provocation that would create the same passion in a reasonable person. Generally, there cannot be an opportunity for the defendant to have calmed down between the provocation and the killing. A conviction carries up to 20 years in prison.
If a person unintentionally kills another during the commission of an unlawful act that is not a felony, he can be charged with involuntary manslaughter and receive a sentence of up to 10 years. If a person kills another unintentionally while performing a lawful act in an unlawful manner that is likely to cause great bodily harm, the person may also be charged with involuntary manslaughter; however, the conviction of such a crime is only a misdemeanor.
Aggravated battery occurs when a person’s actions cause physical injury to another person through the loss of a body part or through the loss of function of a body part. A charge of aggravated battery is also appropriate when the injury results in disfigurement of the victim’s body or a part of the body. A conviction will generally result in up to 20 years in prison. An aggravated battery committed upon a law enforcement office will result in a 10 to 20 year sentence. In addition, if the alleged victim was 65 or older, the sentence will be between 5 and 20 years.
Aggravated assault is another serious crime in Georgia. An individual commits this crime when he assaults another with the intention of murdering, raping, or robbing. An aggravated assault can also be committed when a person assaults another with a lethal weapon or device likely to cause serious injury to the body, or that actually does cause such an injury. A third way to commit an aggravated assault is when a person discharges a firearm towards another from a vehicle without legal justification. A conviction of this crime carries a sentence of between 1 and 20 years. If the assault is committed upon an officer, the minimum sentence is increased to 5 years. If the alleged victim is 65 or older, the sentence is a minimum of 3 years.
Kidnapping is defined as abducting any person without lawful authority and holding such person against his or her will. Kidnapping differs from false imprisonment in that kidnapping requires an additional element of transportation or movement of the alleged victim. Kidnapping carries with it a 10- to 20-year sentence for victims 14 years and older. For a victim of less than 14, a defendant can receive 25 years to life. If bodily injury occurs during a kidnapping, the penalty is life imprisonment. The crime of false imprisonment carries with it a sentence of 1 to 10 years.
A charge of obstruction of a law enforcement officer is a common charge. Obstruction occurs when a person deliberately opposes or resists any officer through a form of violence. It should be noted that this law requires that the officer be acting in his capacity as an officer for there to be a conviction. A conviction for obstruction carries with it a sentence of up to 5 years. Obstruction is a misdemeanor when a person deliberately hinders an officer from carrying out his duties, but no force or violence is involved.
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Defending Georgia Murder Cases and Violent Crime Charges
A criminal defense attorney has many options in defending allegations of a violent crime. Of course, the state must always prove every element of a crime as charged. There can be no conviction if the state cannot prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt. For instance, kidnapping requires several elements, including transportation. If there is no evidence that the victim was moved against his will, there can be no conviction.
A defense attorney will also investigate the arrest and any police investigations that were conducted for possible defenses. Part of this work usually involves investigating the witnesses and alleged victims. Violent crimes are often the result of personal or emotional situations when tempers are running high. When cooler heads prevail, stories may change and a witnesses’ trial testimony may be inconsistent with the initial statement.
Additionally, criminal allegations are often made against people who were justified in their actions. This is referred to as an affirmative defense. A person is justified in using force against another to the extent that he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend himself or a third person against another’s imminent use of unlawful force. Furthermore, Georgia provides that a person may use deadly force if he believes that it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Georgia also allows a person to defend his or her home. A person is justified in using force against another when he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent or terminate another’s unlawful entry into the home. A person may use deadly force to defend his home under certain circumstances. Generally, a person may use deadly force when the owner reasonably believes the intruder intends to assault someone or commit a felony inside the home. Deadly force is also generally allowed when the owner had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred when the intruder is not a member of the family or household. It is important to note that a person defending his or her home, self, or others has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground.
Many other defenses are available to someone accused of a violent crime. In many cases, a skilled attorney will be able to negotiate for a reduced charge or have a charge dismissed entirely. A reduction could mean the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. The complexity and gravity of violent crime charges underscore the necessity of an experienced attorney who will defend your legal rights. For many years, our firm has successfully represented clients charged with murder and violent crimes. If you have been charged with a violent crime, our firm may be able to help.
The information provided above is a very general summary of Georgia’s murder and violent crime laws at the time this text was prepared. Because this analysis is subject to change depending upon recent cases and legal developments, you should not rely on this summary as legal advice. As with any important legal question, you should always consult a lawyer licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Our lawyers are licensed to practice in all state and federal courts in Georgia.