Murder Laws & Charges

In the state of Massachusetts, you face serious consequences if you are charged with murder, manslaughter or motor vehicle homicide. Anyone who faces these kinds of Massachusetts state charges needs to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in this state as soon as possible.

The follow section is an overview of these types of serious murder charges.

First Degree Murder

In Massachusetts, you have committed first degree murder if you intentionally kill another human being on purpose and with premeditation. This crime is covered in MGL Chapter 265, Section 1.

First degree murder also can be charged if you commit a serious felony in Massachusetts and a death happens during the commission of that crime. This may be referred to as ‘felony murder.’ For this charge, the state prosecutor does not need to show that the killing of the purpose was on purpose. All it takes is for the death of the person to have occurred during the commission of another felony for there to be a charge of first degree murder.

An example of felony murder that can bring a first degree murder charge in Massachusetts is if you rob a bank and kill an innocent bystander with a gun. You may not have wanted to kill the pedestrian, but if it happened during a felony, it is first degree murder. Also, if a homicide is determined to be especially savage or cruel, the jury can find you guilty of first degree murder even if the act was not premeditated.

For a conviction for first degree murder, you can receive life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in Massachusetts. If you are convicted of this crime, there is an automatic appeal to the state supreme court, but appeals are rarely successful.

Second Degree Murder

When you kill someone, regardless of your intent or any other details about the event, it is usually called a homicide. Murder happens when you knowingly kill someone or cause major body harm to the person and he dies later due to those injuries. This crime is covered in MGL Chapter 265, Section 1.

In Massachusetts, second degree murder occurs when you intentionally kill another human being but you did not premeditate it. To be convicted, the murder must have been done with ‘malice aforethought.’ This type of killing happens in the heat of the moment and does not involve premeditation on your part. When the murder happens, you intended to commit the act, but up until that time, you did not plain to commit a murder.

An example of second degree murder in Massachusetts could be if you walked into your home and found your spouse sleeping with someone else. If you were to kill your spouse in the heat of passion, this is defined as second degree murder in Massachusetts. This is so because you did not have any intention to kill your spouse when you walked into your house, so you did not have premeditation. When the murder happened, though, you fully intended to kill your spouse because of your ange. Thus, there was malice aforethought.

Malice aforethought means there was in intention by you to act in a way that a ‘reasonable person’ would know would probably cause death or serious injury. The malice aspect of a second degree charge in Massachusetts does not require the prosecutor to show intent on your part to cause death, only ‘serious bodily injury.’

Second degree murder in Massachusetts also happens when you commit a felony and a death results. This is felony murder. For a charge of felony murder, the prosecutor does not need to show that you killed the person on purpose. All he must show is that the death was a consequence of you committing another felony. For instance, if you steal a car and kill a pedestrian in a crosswalk, that would be felony murder in Massachusetts.

Unlike first degree murder in this state, the elements that comprise second degree murder are defined according to case law. Case law is what has been distilled from earlier decisions by Massachusetts courts. This also may be known in some quarters as common law or decisional law.

If you are convicted of second degree murder in Massachusetts, you can receive up to life imprisonment with a possibility of parole after 15 years. A major difference from first degree murder is that you have the right to waive a trial by jury and have it heard by a judge. This is known as a bench trial. There also is no automatic appeal to the state supreme court, as there is with a first degree murder conviction.

Voluntary Manslaughter

In this state, voluntary manslaughter is defined as killing another person intentionally, but there is a mitigating factor involved. This crime is covered under MGL Chapter 265, Section 13. Some of these mitigating factors could be:

  • Heat of passion that was due to ‘reasonable provocation’
  • Heat of passion that was due to ‘sudden combat’
  • Excessive force that you used in self-defense, or while defending another person

There is a major difference between voluntary manslaughter and murder in Massachusetts. Both involve you purposely killing another person. But it is defined as voluntary manslaughter if you acted when your thinking was disrupted by emotional excitement, to a point that a ‘reasonable person’ may have acted in an impulsive way without thinking twice about it. The killing, to be voluntary manslaughter, must have been due to emotional; excitement or a reasonable provocation.

One of the key aspects of a voluntary manslaughter charge is that the provocation must have been reasonable. Insults are not enough for you to have been ‘reasonably provoked.’ For example, if someone insults your shoes and you kill them with a knife, this would not be charged as voluntary manslaughter because there was not sufficient provocation.

In the end, this matter will be for the Massachusetts judge or jury to decide. But state law does recognize that emotions that are caused by reasonable provocations can cause people to lose control of themselves in the heat of the moment. This loss of self control is what can make a murder be charged as voluntary manslaughter, which someone reduces your culpability.

If you are convicted of voluntary manslaughter, you can receive up to 20 years in state prison, victim restitution and fines.

Involuntary Manslaughter

In Massachusetts, manslaughter is defined as killing another person without premeditation. Involuntary manslaughter happens when you accidentally cause the death of another person but you were engaged in some type of dangerous or reckless conduct while committing battery upon the person.

Motor Vehicle Homicide

The most common charge of involuntary manslaughter in this state occurs in a motor vehicle homicide. Motor vehicle homicide is a type of involuntary manslaughter that happens when you drive a motor vehicle in a negligent or reckless manner that causes the death of another person. Motor vehicle homicide may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. This depends upon the facts of the case; it will probably be charged as a felony if you were intoxicated or high on drugs.

If you are convicted for involuntary manslaughter or motor vehicle homicide, you can receive a 15 year loss of your driver’s license. For involuntary manslaughter, you can get up to 20 years in state prison. For felony motor vehicle homicide, you can get up from 2.5 to 15 years in jail or state prison. For misdemeanor motor vehicle homicide, you can be punished by 30 days to 2.5 years in jail or state prison.

Assault with Intent to Murder, Kill

There are two Massachusetts crimes that make it an offense to assault someone with the intent to murder or maim, or to assault another person with intent to kill without malice.

For assault with intent to murder or maim, this crime is covered in MGL Chapter 265, Section 15. The statute states that if you assault another person with the intent to commit murder or to maim or disfigure them, you can receive a sentence of 10 years in state prison or 2.5 years in jail.

For assault with intent to kill without malice, a trial for an assault charge with intent to murder of maim can result in this charge if evidence is introduced that means the jury will not convict you. You would then possibly be convicted for assault with intent to kill. If convicted, you can receive up to 10 years in state prison.

Why Choose Attorney Nathan?

Attorney Geoffrey Nathan is one of the premier criminal defense lawyers in Massachusetts for those who have been charged with murder, manslaughter or homicide.

He has years of criminal defense experience in both state and federal murder charge cases. He has aggressively defended clients facing serious state and federal murder, manslaughter and homicide charges, as well as other charges including money laundering, wire fraud, bank robbery and tax fraud.

Attorney Nathan possesses more than 20 years of experience defending clients against murder charges at the state and federal levels. He understands what you stand to lose if you are convicted. Let him put his strong, proven record in winning minimum sentences for those charged with murder in Massachusetts and at the federal level.

Sample Case Results

Although we cannot guarantee a result in any particular case, we can guarantee you will get the best possible defense. Below are actual cases handled by our defense team. *More available by request

  • Win: CASE NAME: COMMONWEALTH V. Johnson
  • COURT: Suffolk Superior
  • Indicted for Murder
  • JUDGE Mulkern
  • INTERESTING TWIST TO CASE: After jury trial , defendant was convicted of manslaughter( a lesser charge).

  • Win: CASE NAME: COMMONWEALTH V. Hines
  • COURT: Suffolk Superior
  • Defendant charged with Attempted Rape, One of the 2 victims was Peter Lawford's son's Girlfriend ­ a model ( as was other woman).
  • Both positively ID'd defendant. Found Not Guilty at jury trial.
  • Judge Steadman

  • Win: Case Name: COMMONWEALTH V. Griffith
  • COURT: Suffolk Superior
  • Judge Izzo
  • Tried by Jury
  • INTERESTING TWIST TO CASE: Charged with Murder I, The Defendant was examined every day of trial for competency. He testified he did not do it.
  • An eyewitness said he saw defendant pull a knife out of chest of victim.
  • Not Guilty, Defendant was found mentally ill.

  • Loss: CASE NAME: COMMONWEALTH V. Cleo Clemente
  • COURT: SUFFOLK SUPERIOR
  • Quadruple murder at 99 Restaurant in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
  • JUDGE McDaniel
  • Trial by jury
  • INTERESTING TWIST TO CASE: Defendant testified to shooting all four victims at point blank range, yet jury was out 5 days! Defendant was eventually found guilty.

  • Win: CASE NAME: USA V. CRESTA
  • COURT: Federal Court PORTLAND, MAINE
  • Accused of smuggling 25 tons of Marijuana
  • JUDGE Gignouix
  • Jury Trial, through a multitude of legal issues in 7 week trial. Police from four states as well as federal agents testified. Guilty, but probation only.

Additional Types of Murder Crimes

  • -Firearms-Related Homicide, Shootings, Car-Jacking, Drive-by, and Sniper-related activities. Office, School, and Workplace Shootings.
  • -Fight-related Deaths and Assaults, Bar and Street, Bludgeonings, Fatal Beatings, and Domestic Violence Deaths.
  • -Self Defense. Manslaughter/Unintentional Killings. Negligent Homicide. Reckless Conduct Resulting in Death.
  • -Use of Knives, Edged Weapons, and Stabbings.
  • -Accusations of Terrorist Acts, Religious Terrorism, Cyberterrorism, Bioterrorism, Domestic Terrorism, Homemade Explosives, Letter and Mail Bombs, Devices, Biological and Chemical Toxins. Operational planning of Suicide Bombing, large scale Attacks against transportation, aircraft and other acts of violence resulting in Mass causalities.
  • - Poisonings, Wrong Medications, Alcohol-related, Hazing (University, College, Fraternity, Sorority initiations and events), Drinking Games, Overdoses of illicit drugs (Heroin, Cocaine products, Designer Drugs, Ecstasy, LSD and related drugs), Accusations of providing drugs and alcohol to minors (legal and illegal).
  • - "Accidental" and Negligent Death incidents, Falls, Games of Chance (including Russian Roulette Operations), Unlicensed Fights (Boxing, Martial Arts, Full Contact, Wrestling, Weapons Bouts, and Man-Animal Engagements), Professional Sports Assaults (Hockey, Football) and related tournaments and events.
  • - Motor Vehicle related Homicides, including Vehicular Homicide, Drunk Driving, Negligent Operation, Road Rage Incidents and related Shootings and Violence, Ramming, Running Off Road, Hit and Run, High Speed Chases involving law enforcement, and Street Racing Accidents.
  • - Contract Killings, Murder for Hire, Executions, Assassinations and Attempts (Political and Ideological) , Gang-related, Vigilante, Revenge Killings and Torture, Professional Operators and Gunmen.
  • -Military Murders. Unlawful Homicides of Enlisted and Civilians, Rape-Murders in Zones Occupied by US Forces, Rules of Engagement Violations. Fragging. Courts Martial. Military Tribunals.
  • - Physician and Nurse related Homicides. Patient Killings. Assisted Suicide.
  • - Crimes of Passion, Marital Relationship, Child Support Homicides, Extra Martial Affairs (Cheating, Jealous Lover Murders) and related Homicides.
  • - Murders for Economic Gain. Life Insurance Murders. Murder of Parents, Relatives by Post Death Beneficiaries Under Wills, Trusts and Financial Instruments.
  • - Sex-Related Homicides, Sex Crimes, Rape-Murders, Suffocation, S/M, Bondage, Role-Play Deaths, Dungeon, Sex Torture, Mutilation, Sexual Slavery, Exploitation and Sex Trade, Child Sexual Abuse.
  • - Kidnapping-Murder, Ransom and Demand Cases, Threats to Kill and related offenses. (Political and Monetary).
  • - Arson-Related Deaths. Criminal Negligence and Premises Liability, Fire Deaths in Homes or Public Venues resulting in Criminal Prosecution.
  • - Ritual Murder, Cults, Occult and Human Sacrifice. Torture and Videotaping, "Snuff" and filmed acts of Violence.
  • - Felony Murder, Murders committed in the course of another crime, Hold-ups, Armed Robberies, Burglary, Large Heists, Home Invasions.
  • - Hate Crime related Homicides, Race and Ideology-related Murders.
  • - Crimes against Infants and Children. Shaken Baby Syndrome. Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. Parent-Children Homicides. Child Murder and Infanticide. Starvation and Criminal Neglect.
  • - Allegations of International Crimes in the Hague, Netherlands. War Crimes Tribunals, Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and related matters.
  • - Mass Murder, Serial Murder.
Need Criminal Defense Help?

For a Free Federal or Criminal Consultation, call me today at 617-472-5775 or use the form below for your free consultation. I will offer you expert help and answer any specific questions you have about your case. Protect your rights and call me about our Criminal Defense attorney needs in all areas of Massachusetts including Boston, Springfield, Cambridge, Quincy, Lowell and national for Federal matters.

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132 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

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