If you or a loved one are facing first degree murder charges in Muskogee, Oklahoma, you will need help unraveling Oklahoma law and procedure during this stressful and frightening time. Here are some things that you need to know about how murder is treated in Oklahoma.
First Degree Murder Defined
Oklahoma law categorizes murder by degrees, with first degree murder as more serious than second degree murder.
A person commits first degree murder when that person unlawfully takes the life of another with “malice aforethought.” Malice aforethought is an intent that must be proven by the prosecution. It means deliberately taking a life. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.7
The intent is specific — to intentionally kill. And this intent is usually proven by external facts and circumstances such as conduct, demeanor, a defendant’s words, or even the killing itself.
Thus, the elements of basic first degree murder are:
- taking the life
- of another
- with malice “aforethought.”
Felony Murder Rule
But there are other situations in which first degree murder charges may be brought against a person. When the death of another occurs during the commission of any of the following crimes, even if there is no malice aforethought, the result is first degree murder:
- the commission or attempted commission of the murder of another person;
- the discharge of a firearm or other deadly weapon into a building or with the intent to kill;
- robbery with a dangerous weapon;
- escape from the lawful custody of a law enforcement official;
- eluding a peace officer;
- first degree arson; and
- unlawfully distributing, manufacturing, or trafficking in illegal drugs or other controlled dangerous substances.
Finally, in Oklahoma, it is first degree murder if:
- a child dies as a result of being willfully tortured or if a person uses unreasonable force on the child;
- the death occurs as a result of malice aforethought in the unlawful manufacturing, distribution or dispensing of controlled dangerous substances; or
- a law enforcement officer or corrections employee of any kind is intentionally killed while in the performance of his or her duties.
Penalty for First Degree Murder
Murder in the first degree is a capital offense in Oklahoma. It is punishable by death or life in prison without parole.
This crime is subject to the 85% Rule. Oklahoma law mandates that convicted felons of violent crimes serve at least 85% of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.9
There are a number of defenses that may be available to you, which you should discuss in detail with your attorney. Some of the most common defenses involve self-defense and justifiable or excusable homicide. There are situations in which a death is either justified or excused under the law.
Self-defense or the defense of another is justifiable homicide. When asserting this defense, the person must have reasonably believed that the amount of force used was necessary to protect someone from great bodily harm or death or to terminate or prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 733
Homicide is excusable when the death happens by accident while a person is engaged in an act that is otherwise legal and there is no unlawful intent. It is also excused when it happens by accident in the heat of passion or when a person is engaged in sudden combat and there is neither any unfair advantage being used nor any dangerous weapon used. The killing must not have been done in a cruel or unusual manner. This is the case in accidental death. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 731
Remember that everything you say to the police can be used against you. Never speak to the police without the presence of an experienced attorney.
Free Consultation: Muskogee Criminal Defense Attorney
Are you facing criminal charges and need help? Get the help you need to protect your freedom today. Talk to a criminal defense attorney in Muskogee, OK.
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Call 918-913-0725 today for an initial free consultation. You can also submit the question form at the top right of this page.