If you or a loved one are facing murder charges, contact a Greenville homicide defense attorney at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC, Attorneys at Law. When you need a murder defense attorney or homicide defense attorney, work with the team that has a track record of success in this challenging area of law.
The state must prove the charges against you, and you have important rights. Each client we represent receives an aggressive, knowledgeable defense. When you need a team experienced in trial defense, case strategy, and complex legal issues, call or message our Greenville criminal defense attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey.
How is murder defined in South Carolina?
Under South Carolina Code § 16-3-10, murder is the killing of a person with malice aforethought. Intent to kill may be express or implied.
What is homicide?
Homicide is when one person kills another person. The actor may or may not intend to kill. Not every homicide is a violation of criminal law.
Homicide Charges in South Carolina
There are several different types of homicide charges in South Carolina, each with unique elements and possible penalties.
§ 16-3-20 – Murder
Murder is an unlawful killing with malice aforethought, or premeditated murder.
Penalty: Death, or 30 years-life in prison. If a statutory aggravating circumstance is found, the defendant must be sentenced to death or life in prison.
Death as a penalty must be considered in a separate proceeding. No person sentenced to life in prison is eligible for community supervision or early release.
§ 16-3-29 – Attempted Murder
Attempted murder is:
- Intent to kill,
- Attempt to kill,
- With malice aforethought, express or implied.
Penalty: Up to 30 years in prison, the defendant is ineligible for a suspended sentence or probation
§ 16-3-50 – Voluntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is an unlawful homicide in the heat of passion and with sufficient legal provocation. The sudden heat of passion disturbs the sway of reason and invokes violence. State v. Pittman, 373 S.C. 527 (2007).
Penalty: 2-30 years in prison
§ 16-3-60 – Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is a death that results from criminal negligence, or the reckless disregard for the safety of others. Involuntary manslaughter occurs in either of two circumstances:
- While the defendant is engaged in an unlawful activity, but one that isn’t likely to cause death or great bodily harm, or
- While the defendant is engaged in a lawful but reckless activity.
In both circumstances, there is no malice. If there is sufficient evidence to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter, the court must do so. State v. Reese, 370 S.C. 31 (2006).
Penalty: Up to 5 years in prison
§ 56-5-2910 – Reckless Homicide
Reckless homicide occurs when a person:
- Drives a vehicle
- With reckless disregard for the safety of others
- Death ensues as a proximate result
The death must occur within three years of injury from the person’s driving of a vehicle.
Penalty: $1,000-$5,000 fine, or up to 10 years in prison, driver’s license revocation of 5 years
§ 16-17-410 – Conspiracy
A conspiracy is when two or more people combine for the purpose of accomplishing an unlawful objective.
Penalty: Up to $5,000 or five years in prison.
§ 16-3-85 – Homicide by Child Abuse
Homicide by child abuse is:
- The death of a child, under age 11
- As a result of child abuse or neglect
- In circumstances evidencing an extreme indifference to human life, or aiding another person committing child abuse or neglect
Penalty: 20 years-life or 10-20 years, depending on the circumstances
Defenses to Murder Charges in South Carolina
There are several defenses to the charge of murder in South Carolina:
Self-defense/defense of others
South Carolina recognizes self-defense as a defense to murder. Self-defense is when you defend yourself, a family member, or your property through a variety of actions – oftentimes resulting in an assault charge. Assault charges can have a wide range of penalties, many of which may be detrimental to your life and family. Assault charges that stem from self-defense differs greatly from homicide self-defense. A homicide self-defense results when another person is killed as a result of you defending yourself.
Learn more about South Carolina stand your ground laws.
To claim self-defense, the defendant must be without fault in bringing on the difficulty. State v. Davis, 282 S.C. 45, 46 (1984).
A defense of accident may by applicable where the death was unintentional, the defendant acted lawfully and used due care in handling a weapon. State v. Wharton, 672 S.E.2d 786 (S.C. 2009).
A lesser-included offense is a criminal charge that includes all the elements of a greater charge. For example, manslaughter may be a lesser-included offense of the charge of murder. Knowing what lesser-included offenses to include – and when to object to a jury instruction for a lesser-included offense – is critical to any homicide defense strategy.
In their eagerness to achieve a conviction, the state may charge the wrong person. They must prove the elements of the charge against the person charged, including their identity.
No cause of death
The victim’s death occurred for some reason other than the actions of the defendant.
S.C. Code § 17-24-10 recognizes insanity as an affirmative defense to prosecution, if at the time of the act, the defendant lacked capacity to distinguish right from wrong or recognize the act as wrong. The insanity must be the result of mental disease or defect.
A defendant may raise any defense that is applicable to them. It’s critical to understand what’s needed to be successful in raising a defense, potential drawbacks and likely outcomes. Murder and homicide charges are legally complex – cases are often won and lost in legal issues surrounding appropriate jury instructions, included offenses, defendant intent and court error.
As homicide defense attorneys and murder defense attorneys, we understand how to evaluate a case, raise the appropriate defenses and advocate for our clients.
Does South Carolina recognize mutual combat?
South Carolina recognizes mutual combat as the basis to sustain a homicide charge. However, in the sudden heat of passion and without sufficient provocation, mutual combat is manslaughter. Mutual combat is proven by the acts and circumstances leading up to the homicide. State v. Andrews, 73 S.C. 257 (1906).
Contact a Murder/Homicide Defense Attorney in Greenville
When you need to defend a murder or homicide charge in South Carolina, contact the team at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey in Greenville.
Discuss your options with our knowledgeable team. Determine your next steps. We can prepare an aggressive and targeted defense strategy to fight the charges against you.
Contact us today for a consultation regarding your case.