If you find yourself accused of having committed first-degree murder in Washington, this is a truly serious situation. FindLaw explains that, if convicted of this most serious of homicide crimes, you could face a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
To convict you of this Class A felony, however, the prosecutor must prove one of the following:
- That you deliberately killed your victim after planning to do so, i.e., that you premeditated your actions
- That you killed your victim while committing robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson or rape
- That you killed your victim in a manner that demonstrated extreme indifference to human life
Aggravated first-degree murder
Washington law also provides for the charge of aggravated first-degree murder. The alleged murder becomes aggravated if it meets certain criteria, including the following:
- Your victim was a law enforcement officer, judge, juror, witness, attorney, reporter or other person performing his or her duty at the time of his or her death.
- You killed your victim as part of a gang initiation.
- You killed your victim as part of a murder-for-hire agreement.
- You killed your victim in a drive-by shooting.
- You killed at least one other person in addition to your victim during your action.
- You killed your victim while he or she had an outstanding restraining order against you.
If the jury convicts you of aggravated first-degree murder, the mandatory penalty consists of life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 30 years.
Given the extremely serious penalties attached to a first-degree murder or aggravated murder conviction, your wisest course of action if arrested and accused of one of these crimes may be to begin planning your defense with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.