Philadelphia Attempted Murder Lawyer | Homicide Charges Defense
If you are facing Attempted Murder charges or any other type of assault or homicide charges, we can help. We are award-winning Philadelphia, PA criminal defense lawyers who have successfully handled countless criminal cases involving assault charges and other violent crimes. We are dedicated, understanding criminal defense attorneys who will use our skills and expertise to help you obtain the best possible result in any felony case. If you are charged with or under investigation for any form of homicide or assault, call us at 267-225-2545 to discuss your case and how we can help.
What is Attempted Murder?
Attempted Murder is an extremely serious offense. It is similar to Aggravated Assault, but instead of requiring the prosecution to show only that the defendant caused or attempted to cause serious bodily injury, it requires the prosecution to show that the defendant specifically intended to kill the complainant and took some sort of concrete step towards doing so.
The most common example would likely be shooting at someone's head and missing. Even though the complainant was not hit, the prosecution could charge Attempted Murder under those circumstances, and if a jury believes the evidence, the defendant could be convicted. Additionally, the sentencing guidelines for this offense are extremely high. Fortunately, there are often defenses in these cases.
Defenses to Attempted Murder Charges
Each case is different, and the specific defenses which could apply in your case always depend both on the prosecution's evidence, the investigation undertaken by the police, and the availability of defense witnesses and evidence. The first step in any case is to investigate the allegations thoroughly. We have talented investigators who are always ready to begin seeking out potential exculpatory witnesses or surveillance footage. We also routinely work with expert witnesses who may be able to rebut the testimony of prosecution experts or challenge the prosecution's purported forensic science.
Sufficiency of the Evidence. As with any criminal charge, in order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution must prove every element of the statute beyond a reasonable doubt. For attempted murder, this means that the prosecution must prove both that the defendant made an attempt and that the defendant did so with the intent to kill. Under Pennsylvania law, an attempt is "any act which constitutes a substantial step towards the commission of the crime." Therefore, the Commonwealth must be able to show that the defendant took a substantial step towards a homicide and that the defendant did so with the intent to kill. Depending on the allegations, there may be a wide variety of potential defenses. These defenses could range from whether the prosecution has actually identified the right person to whether the defendant acted with the intent to kill as opposed to merely the intent to injure. If the Commonwealth cannot prove each element, then it will not be able to obtain a conviction.
Credibility. The credibility of a witness is almost always an issue in criminal trials. Our criminal defense lawyers will thoroughly investigate the allegations against you as well as whether the witness may have a motive to fabricate or lie. We will then use our cross-examination skills during the preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and at trial to explore inconsistencies in witnesses testimony and evaluate whether the witness's story makes sense. If it does not, we may be able to show a judge or jury that the witness should not be believed.
Motions to Suppress. Under both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions, the prosecution must always be able to show that the police obtained any physical evidence or confessions legally. If the police conducted an unlawful search and seizure or obtained a confession without required Miranda warnings, it may be possible to have incriminating evidence excluded from trial. Our lawyers will thoroughly investigate the case, review all of the discovery, and file any pre-trial motions which could be used to exclude damaging evidence which may have been illegally obtained.
Sentencing For Attempted Murder Convictions
Attempted Murder is a felony of the first degree. Like most felonies of the first degree, it is punishable by up to 20 years in jail and substantial fines. Although there are currently no mandatory minimums for a Pennsylvania Attempted Murder conviction unless the defendant has prior convictions for "strike" offenses, the sentencing guidelines will call for an extremely high recommended sentence for a defendant who is convicted of Attempted Homicide. Depending on whether the court finds that the defendant actually cased serious bodily injury, the Offense Gravity Score for a conviction will be 13 or 14. It is 14 if the defendant caused serious bodily injury. Additionally, the case is often going to involve the use of a deadly weapon, which means that the sentencing guidelines would be based on the deadly weapon enhancement instead of on the normal sentencing guideline matrix. Assuming the causation of serious bodily injury and the use of a deadly weapon, even a defendant with no prior criminal convictions would a recommended minimum sentence in the range of 90 months to the statutory limit plus or minus twelve months for mitigating or aggravating circumstances. This means the judge is bound only by the statutory maximum when sentencing a defendant on an Attempted Homicide charge.
Case Study - Commonwealth v. L.W.
Attorney Goldstein recently obtained a full acquittal in the case of Commonwealth v. L.W.. The prosecution charged L.W. with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, and various illegal firearms charges for allegedly shooting a complainant in the head at a Southwest Philadelphia block party. The Commonwealth alleged that L.W. shot the complainant in the head at point blank range, but the bullet did not penetrate his skull. The complainant initially fell down, but he quickly jumped back up and ran to a nearby police car as officers arrived on the scene to begin shutting down the block party. The officers quickly transported the complainant to the hospital and began questioning him.
The complainant consistently denied that the defendant had shot him from the beginning, but shortly after he began receiving treatment at the hospital, his family members began to tell police that two of them witnessed the shooting. Two of his close relatives told Philadelphia police detectives that they were standing with the complainant at the party when the defendant got mad, pulled a firearm, and shot the complainant in the head from a few feet away. A third family member testified that although the complainant had denied it to the police, the complainant told her that the defendant was the person who shot him. Finally, officers testified that when they tried to arrest the defendant a few days later, he fled from a traffic stop and evaded arrest. Officers also insisted that the complainant purposefully impeded the investigation. They believed that he had lied to them.
The case looked extremely difficult for L.W.. The Commonwealth claimed that two eyewitnesses implicated the defendant in the shooting and that a third witness would prove the complainant lied to police about not knowing who shot him. But once the jury was empaneled and the witnesses were under oath and subjected to Attorney Goldstein’s withering cross examination, it became clear to the jury that the witnesses lied to the police. Attorney Goldstein got the witnesses to admit that they lied in their original statements and had not in fact observed the shooting. The prosecutor argued that the witnesses recanted due to the "no snitch culture" in Philadelphia, but throughout the week-long jury trial, Attorney Goldstein’s excellent presentation and cross-examination established that the witnesses simply could not be believed.
After the Commonwealth saw the credibility of its witnesses destroyed by Attorney Goldstein, prosecutors tried to tip the scales by having multiple police detectives testify to their own personal beliefs that the defendant shot the complainant. Undeterred, Attorney Goldstein was able to highlight to the jury that the detectives based their entire case on hearsay from unreliable witnesses and failed to do any additional investigation. In closing, Attorney Goldstein highlighted the fact that the investigators failed to recover any physical evidence and instead chose to rely on biased and untrustworthy witnesses with a vendetta against L.W.. Likewise, the police failed to uncover any evidence of motive whatsoever. The jury deliberated for approximately five hours over two hours and returned a Not Guilty verdict for L.W. on all charges.
Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Attempted Murder and other assault charges are serious. Given the seriousness of the offense and the real possibility of incarceration for a conviction, if you are facing charges, you should contact a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer today. We have extensive experience fighting these cases, and we will use our skills and knowledge of the justice system to fight for you. We have proven track records of success in defending all types of criminal cases. We have won motions for lineups, pre-trial motions to suppress identification and physical evidence, obtained dismissals at preliminary hearings, and successfully convinced judges and juries of the defendant's innocence by pointing out inaccuracies in the eyewitness' or complainant's testimony. If you are facing any type of homicide or assault harges, we need to start investigating your case immediately. Call 267-225-2545 for a free criminal defense strategy session.