Washington DC Homicide Lawyer

Updated on April 16th, 2024 at 01:54 pm

If you’re facing homicide charges in Washington, DC, you must act fast and speak with experienced criminal defense attorneys. A murder accusation can profoundly impact your future.

At Bruckheim & Patel, our experienced criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience in homicide cases. Our team has successfully defended numerous clients accused of homicide in Washington, DC. We understand the DC Superior Court and will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive a fair trial against criminal charges and that your constitutional rights are protected.

Types of homicide in Washington, DC

In Washington, DC, like in many other jurisdictions, homicides can be categorized into various types based on the circumstances surrounding the killing. Some common types of homicide classifications include First-degree murder, 2nd-degree murder, Manslaughter, Felony murder, Justifiable homicide, Negligent homicide, and Vehicular homicide.


Murder is the unlawful killing of a person by the actions of another.

First-degree murder

Murder in the first degree occurs when a person deliberately kills another with premeditated malice. A person can also be charged with first-degree murder if they kill someone while in the act of committing a felony, even if they had no intention of killing someone. This is known as felony murder.

Penalties of 1st-degree murder in Washington D.C.

Murder in the first degree is classified as a Class A felony and is punishable by a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison to a maximum of life in prison for those 18 years or older at the time of the murder.  and face fines totaling up to $250,000.

The District of Columbia does not impose a sentence of capital punishment on any person.

Second-degree murder

Murder in the second degree occurs when a person has the intent to physically hurt another, but premeditation is not involved. The idea is that a person intending to cause physical harm to another should be aware that said harm could lead to death, and in turn are responsible for the death.

Penalties of 2nd-degree murder

If found guilty, murder in the second degree is punishable by a maximum of life in prison. The minimum sentence for second-degree murder depends on certain factors of the crime, such as firearms, etc. Fines up to $250,000 may also be imposed. Along with murder in the first degree and felony murder, second-degree murder is considered a Class A felony.

Example of second-degree murder

Using an object to strike a person in the head, which leads to their death would be an example of 2nd-degree murder. Although the defendant did not have premeditation to kill, they should have been aware that striking the person could inevitably cause death.


Manslaughter is the killing of a person without any malice or premeditation; the circumstances do not amount to murder. Manslaughter can be classified as voluntary or involuntary.

Voluntary manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is considered to happen when a provocation so severe occurs and causes a person to kill; this can be due to a sudden quarrel or being in the heat of passion.

Penalties of voluntary manslaughter in Washington, DC

If found guilty of manslaughter, a person could face up to 30 years in prison. The minimum sentence for voluntary manslaughter is dependent on factors of the crime. Fines can be up to $250,000.

Example of voluntary manslaughter

An example of voluntary manslaughter would be a person walking in on their spouse cheating on them, becoming enraged, and killing them. In this situation, there is intent to kill, but there was no premeditation therefore they would be charged with voluntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person’s recklessness leads to the death of another.

Penalties of involuntary manslaughter in Washington, D.C.

If found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, a person could face up to 30 years in prison. The minimum sentence for involuntary manslaughter depends on the factors of the case. Additionally, fines can be up to $250,000

Example of involuntary manslaughter

An example of involuntary manslaughter would be if a person was interacting with a gun and accidentally fired the gun, killing another person in the area. Although there was no intent to kill, the recklessness while handling the weapon makes the person responsible for the death.

Felony murder

Felony murder occurs when a death occurs while a person is committing a felony. The idea is that any person committing a felony knows all the risks involved and is therefore responsible if a death occurs.

It is also important to note that having a plan to commit a felony is enough to constitute felony murder, even if the felony did not take place.

Penalties for felony murder

The maximum sentence for felony murder in Washington, D.C., is life in prison without parole, while the minimum sentence is 30 years in prison. Fines for felony murder can be up to $250,000.

Example of felony murder

If someone was on their way to rob a bank, struck and killed someone with their vehicle while doing so, but did not follow through with the planned robbery, said person can still be charged with felony murder.

Justifiable homicide

Justifiable homicide is otherwise known as using self-defense.

A person has the legal right to use self-defense if:

(1) you believe you are in imminent danger or bodily harm; and
(2) if you have reasonable grounds to believe you’re in danger.

However, if those two factors are not proven in a court of law, self-defense cannot be claimed, and therefore, it would not be considered justifiable homicide.

Penalties of Justifiable Homicide

If the court has determined a defendant had the right to self-defense and the death is considered a justifiable homicide, there is no correlating criminal penalties.

Example of Justifiable Homicide

If a person is being physically abused and uses self-defense in that moment that results in death, it would be deemed justifiable homicide.

However, if a person is being abused by their partner and decides to shoot and kill said abusive partner while they sleep, this is not considered self-defense, because the abused partner was not in immediate danger at the time of the shooting. It is not considered justifiable homicide.

Negligent Homicide

Negligent homicide occurs when a person is responsible for another’s death due to recklessly operating a vehicle but did not intend to cause death.

Penalties of Negligent Homicide

If found guilty of negligent homicide, a person could receive a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. There are no minimum sentencing guidelines for this crime.

Example of Negligent Homicide

An example of this would be hitting and killing a person crossing the street due to driving at a high speed. Because the driver was negligent in his actions, he/she is responsible for the victim’s death.

Vehicular homicide

Vehicular homicide is when there is any death, besides the driver, due to a car accident. The difference between vehicular homicide and murder is based on whether the driver had any intention of striking and killing the victim with their car.

If the incident was intentional, it would be considered murder. However, if the incident occurred due to the driver being negligent and reckless, it would be considered vehicular homicide. Vehicular homicide is also known as negligent homicide.

Penalties of vehicular homicide

Although there are no minimum sentencing guidelines, the maximum sentence upon a guilty verdict is 5 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

Examples of vehicular homicide

Examples of such behavior may include hitting and killing a person due to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, excessive speeding, reckless driving, or engaging in other dangerous driving behaviors.

Bruckheim & Patel DC Homicide Lawyers

Bruckheim & Patel is committed to serving the community and representing defendants. If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to have the proper legal representation of your case.

At Bruckheim & Patel, our criminal attorneys offer experienced representation and aggressive defense against criminal offenses. Contact one of our experienced homicide attorneys in DC for aggressive legal representation at 202-930-3464.

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