First degree murder, known as aggravated murder in Ohio, is one of the most serious charges the state can file against a defendant. The consequences are severe. A conviction for aggravated murder carries a sentence of death or life imprisonment. It is crucial that you obtain the best possible advocate to represent you against an aggravated murder charge. An effective defense can potentially result in the dismissal of your case, dropped or reduced charges, or a not-guilty verdict. Our first-degree murder defense lawyers have experience representing clients facing the most severe charges under Ohio law.
Ohio criminal defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence, the right to trial by jury or judge, and a qualified, competent, and trained attorney. The experienced aggravated murder defense lawyers at Moermond & Mulligan, LLC will aggressively fight to protect your Constitutional rights. Call (513) 421-9790 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
How Do Aggravated Murder and Murder Differ?
In addition to manslaughter, Ohio criminalizes three other types of homicide. Ohio law distinguishes them by the offender’s intent or mental state: negligent, reckless, and purposeful. Ohio labels the last category, purposeful, as murder. If there are aggravated circumstances related to the purposeful homicide, Ohio designates the crime as aggravated murder. Murder and aggravated murder are distinct criminal offenses.
A prosecutor can charge the act of purposely causing the death of another or unlawfully terminating another’s pregnancy as murder. A murder charge can also apply to an action causing another person’s death when the death is related to committing or attempting a different violent first- or second-degree felony.
Aggravated murder, known traditionally as first-degree murder, carries the harshest criminal sentence of all types of homicide because it is committed purposely with prior calculation and design. Murder differs from aggravated murder in that no aggravating circumstances, such as prior calculation and design, are present.
For a prosecutor to elevate a murder charge to aggravated murder, the act must involve aggravating circumstances. Ohio law lists these circumstances in the aggravated murder statute.
These circumstances include:
- Purposely killing a law enforcement officer while the officer is engaged in their official duties
- Killing someone or unlawfully terminating their pregnancy purposely with prior calculation and design
- Killing a woman or unlawfully terminating her pregnancy while committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing after committing certain violent felonies, such as kidnapping, rape, or aggravated robbery
- Purposely killing a person under the age of 13
- Purposely killing someone while imprisoned for another felony or while escaping from prison
- Purposely killing a law enforcement officer, first responder, or military member
Penalties for Aggravated Murder
The penalty for a conviction or guilty plea to aggravated murder is death or life imprisonment. However, a court cannot sentence anyone under 18 to life without parole. Ohio courts cannot impose any sentence for aggravated murder without meeting specific, detailed statutory requirements.
An Ohio court cannot impose the death penalty for aggravated murder unless a prosecutor proves specific relevant circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition to the circumstances above, these circumstances include:
- The defendant committed the offense for hire.
- The defendant committed the offense to escape detection, apprehension, trial, or punishment for another offense.
- The defendant has a prior conviction for purposefully killing or attempting to kill another.
- The defendant committed the offense with the specific purpose of killing a law enforcement officer.
- The defendant purposely killed the victim to prevent the victim from testifying against the defendant in a criminal proceeding.
If an Ohio prosecutor cannot prove any of these aggravating circumstances, a court may impose a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Alternatively, a court can impose a sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after a defendant serves 20, 25, or 30 years.
Defenses to Aggravated Murder
There are many strategies and defenses that a seasoned criminal defense attorney can utilize in an aggravated murder case. Some may serve as a complete defense to an aggravated murder charge. Other defenses may mitigate sentencing or reduce charges to murder or manslaughter under Ohio law. The prosecutor has the burden of proof in aggravated murder cases to prove each element of the crime.
- Exercise of duty
- Failure of the prosecution to prove all elements of the charge
- Justifiable homicide
- Mistaken identity
- Prevention of a crime
- The defense of others
Defendants may invoke insanity as a defense if they can prove that they did not know the extent of their actions because of a severe mental defect or disease.
Defenses Mitigating an Aggravated Murder Charge
A partial defense to a murder charge does not acquit a defendant of the crime but may reduce the crime to a lesser offense, such as reckless or negligent homicide or manslaughter. Some mitigating defenses include:
- The criminal act was a crime of passion.
- The defendant was subject to duress or emotional distress.
- The killing was accidental according to the terms of Ohio law.
Why You Need a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney
It is important to hire an attorney with a solid track record of successfully defending those facing criminal charges. They should have experience defending allegations of aggravated murder, murder, homicide, and manslaughter.
Before entering private practice, L. Patrick Mulligan prosecuted more than 180 felony cases working as a prosecutor for Montgomery County. Mr. Mulligan and his criminal defense team have the training and background to benefit clients charged with serious criminal offenses, such as aggravated murder.
Contact Moermond & Mulligan, LLC for a First Degree Murder Defense Lawyer Today
A charge of aggravated murder places your liberty and reputation at stake. You cannot risk your freedom—you need excellent legal representation.
The capable criminal defense attorneys at Moermond & Mulligan, LLC provide expertise based on 50 years of collective experience. We are skilled when it comes to building strong defenses for our clients. Our attorneys vigorously assert the rights of their clients in all criminal proceedings. We proudly serve the residents of Hamilton, Brown, Allen, Clermont, Warren, Montgomery, and Butler counties from our offices in Dayton and Cincinnati. Call (513) 421-9790 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online.