In the state of Virginia, capital murder, murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter are all felonies. Section 18.2-30. With the exception of manslaughter, which, unlike many jurisdictions, is still a common law crime in Virginia, the following murder crimes fall under Title 18.2, Chapter 4 (crimes against the person). Visit the following link for more information about how a lawyer can help with homicide charges.
Capital murder is a Class 1 felony, and encompasses specific circumstances surrounding murder that are deemed to be the most heinous felonies one can commit in Virginia. Section 18.2-31. There are 15 different offenses that qualify as capital murder. Section 18.2-31. An individual is guilty of capital murder if the individual intentionally, deliberately, and with premeditation:
If an individual is guilty of capital murder, which is a Class 1 felony, and the individual is at least 18 years old and not mentally retarded (see Section 19.2-264.3:1.1)– then the individual faces a felony conviction and death or life imprisonment, with a possible fine of up to $100,000. Section 18.2-10(a). If an individual is guilty of capital murder and the individual is either under 18 years old or mentally retarded, then the individual faces a felony conviction with life imprisonment and a possible fine of up to $100,000. Section 18.2-10(a).
An individual is guilty of murder in the first degree if the individual (1) kills someone (2) in a manner not covered by capital murder, by any of the following:
Although (c) may seem very similar to some capital murder provisions, the difference is that capital murder offenses require the killing to be intentional, deliberate, and premeditated even when the killing occurs in the midst of a different crime. Murder in the first degree that falls under (c) above does not require premeditation, willfulness, or a deliberate character. Section 18.2-32. Likewise, a willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder that does not meet any of the capital murder offenses would qualify as murder in the first degree. Section 18.2-32.
Murder in the first degree is a Class 2 felony. Section 18.2-32. Thus, an individual guilty of murder in the first degree faces 20 years to life in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000. Section 18.2-10(b).
An individual is guilty of murder in the second degree if the individual murders someone and the murder does not meet the requirements of either capital murder or murder in the first degree. Section 18.2-32. An individual guilty of murder in the second degree faces a felony conviction with five to 40 years in prison. Section 18.2-32.
If an individual, (1) without premeditation, intentionally and deliberately kills a pregnant woman, when (2) the individual knows the woman is pregnant and (3) intends to kill the fetus or unborn child, then the individual is guilty of this crime. Section 18.2-32.1. If an individual is guilty of murdering a pregnant woman as described in this section, then the individual faces penalties of a felony conviction and 10 to 40 years in prison. Section 18.2-32.1.
In the state of Virginia, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter are still common law offenses, which means they are not defined in statutes. See Blythe v. Commonwealth, 222 Va. 722, 725, 284 S.E.2d 796, 797 (1981). However, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter are both punishable as Class 5 felonies. Sections 18.2-35; 18.2-36.
The Court of Appeals of Virginia used the following definition of voluntary manslaughter: “Voluntary manslaughter may be found upon evidence that an intentional, non-malicious homicide occurred in sudden mutual combat or as a result of heat of passion induced by reasonable provocation.” Couture v. Commonwealth, 51 Va. App. 239, 656 S.E.2d 425, 430 (2008) (citing John L. Costello, Virginia Criminal Law & Procedure Section 3.6-1, at 64-65 (3d ed. 2002)).
In contrast, involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another human being. The Code of Virginia gives some guidance on conduct that qualifies and is punishable as involuntary manslaughter. Section 18.2-36.1. Specifically, Section 18.2-36.1(A) states that an individual who unintentionally causes someone’s death as a result of driving under the influence is guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
As both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are Class 5 felonies, an individual guilty of either manslaughter offense faces penalties of a felony conviction with one to 10 years in prison, or, at the discretion of a jury or the court, a lessened penalty of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Section 18.2-10(e).
In addition to the murder charges described above, it is possible for an individual to be charged with felony homicide. Felony homicide occurs when an individual is committing a non-murder felony and someone is accidentally (against the wishes of the individual committing the felony) killed. Section 18.2-33. Felony homicide is considered murder in the second degree and thus has the same penalty– a felony conviction with 5 to 40 years in prison. Section 18.2-33.
In the state of Virginia, attempting a felony is covered by separate sections of the criminal code. The offense of attempting a felony is broken down by the maximum punishment of the felony being attempted. When it comes to homicide offenses, the penalties for attempting homicide break down as follows:
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