The prospect of facing a homicide prosecution is petrifying with or without a strong homicide defense. Homicide is defined as the act whereby one human being causes the death of another human being – but, importantly, not all homicides are murders. In Wisconsin, certain types of homicide are criminal, but not all homicide is unlawful. Some homicides are legally justifiable, while others are legally excusable. In either case, the individual who killed another would not be legally culpable for the killing. For this reason, it’s critical that anyone facing criminal charges related to homicide retain an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
Experienced Homicide Defense Lawyers in Outagamie County
At Hogan Eickhoff, our aggressive Appleton homicide defense attorneys recognize that reading about the potential defenses to homicide will do little to ease the minds of homicide suspects. Nonetheless, just because you are being investigated for or charged with homicide in Wisconsin does not mean you are guilty of murder or manslaughter. Don’t speak with homicide detectives or prosecutors without contacting an experienced Appleton, Green Bay, and Oshkosh homicide defense lawyer at Hogan Eickhoff for your free criminal defense consultation by calling (920) 450-9800 or contacting us online.
Understanding the Different Types of Homicide in Wisconsin
Homicide is a broad term used to cover everything from murder to accidental death. Understanding the type of homicide you’ve been charged with is essential for identifying available legal defenses. The following crimes are punishable homicides in Wisconsin:
- Wisc. Code § 940.01 – First-degree intentional homicide (Murder) – Causing the death of another, including an unborn child, with intent to kill that person, the child, or another person without justification or excuse
- Wisc. Code § 940.02 – First-degree reckless homicide – Recklessly causing the death of another, including an unborn child, under circumstances where there is an utter disregard for human life including manufacturing or providing illegal drugs that result in death
- Wisc. Code. § 940.03 – Felony Murder –Causing the death of another while committing or attempting to commit a serious crime (felony) such as rape, robbery, human trafficking, or false imprisonment
- Wisc. Code § 940.07 – Homicide resulting from negligent control of vicious animal – Death caused by a dangerous animal at large known to the dangerous by the keeper when the keeper did not take proper precautions and the victim took necessary precautions
- Homicides resulting from the negligent and/or intoxicated use of a vehicle, firearm, or explosive – Death caused by drunk driving, dangerous driving, or negligent handling of a dangerous weapon
Only one type of homicide actually requires the intent to kill someone, and most Wisconsin homicide charges arise from reckless, unintentional, or accidental deaths. Further, even if a defendant acted with the intent to kill another, this may not be illegal. There are numerous defenses to even first-degree intentional homicide charges that justify, excuse, or mitigate murder in Wisconsin.
Complete Defenses to Homicide Charges in Wisconsin
Justification defenses are complete defenses to homicide charges. They arise when the suspect admits that he or she committed the act of which he or she is accused but argues it was the right thing to do because of the existence of certain circumstances. These complete defenses to homicide charges include:
- Self-Defense: Can be raised when you were in imminent danger of death, serious bodily harm, and/or rape and acted with no more force than necessary to prevent that harm
- Defense of a Third Person: Arises when a person was in imminent danger of death, serious bodily harm, and/or rape and the suspect acted with no more force than necessary to prevent that harm
- Prevention of a Serious Crime: Similar to the defense of a third person but occurs when it is clear that a more serious crime such as mass murder, terrorist attack, is about to occur and the defender acted with no more force than necessary to prevent the crime
- Death Caused in Accordance with Law: Lawful abortions, executions, or implementation of DNR orders are not homicides
Justification defenses do not apply if the crime prevented by the death was substantially less serious than the homicide crime committed. For example, killing a shoplifter to stop a minor theft would likely not be justified, but killing an armed robber holding up a cashier would generally be justified.
Excuse & Mitigation Defenses to Homicide
Excuse and mitigation defenses are alternative types of homicide defenses in Wisconsin. These defenses either excuse the crime or mitigate the severity of the crime and punishment for homicide. Some of these defenses are articulated in the Wisconsin murder statute, while others are defenses to most major crimes. These additional defenses include:
- Insanity/Mental Defect: This defense involves arguing that the defendant lacked the mental capacity to understand his actions and/or their illegality or he lacked the capacity to control his behavior to conform with the law
- Duress/Necessity: When you raise duress or necessity, you argue that the defendant was forced to commit the homicide by threats of serious harm to herself or her loved ones. This may substantially mitigate homicide charges but will not excuse all criminal conduct.
- Adequate Provocation: Adequate Provocation mitigates first-degree murder to second-degree murder if the victim provoked the defendant to commit the homicide through acts that would have caused an ordinary person to lose self-control in the moment, such as the threat of seriously harming a pet, catching the victim cheating with your husband, or finding someone sexually touching a child
- Mistake of Fact/Unnecessary Force: Mistake of fact can be raised when a person mistakenly believes a fact that, if true, would have justified the homicide. For example, mistake of fact could be raised if the defendant reasonably but mistakenly believed that his or her life was in danger and used force in self-defense.
Many homicide defenses overlap, and an experienced Green Bay homicide defense lawyer will raise every available defense to homicide charges. Defense to homicide may also include evidentiary, procedural, and constitutional defenses such as excluding illegally seized evidence, challenging the speedy trial clock, and invoking the statute of limitations.
Contact a Wisconsin Homicide Lawyer Immediately to Discuss Available Defenses
The sooner you retain a top-rated Appleton homicide defense attorney from Hogan Eickhoff, the greater your chances of avoiding or reducing homicide charges. Wisconsin homicide investigations may conclude with a decision not to charge the suspect when a top-rated criminal defense attorney raises a strong homicide defense. Contact an experienced Appleton, Green Bay, and Oshkosh murder defense lawyer at Hogan Eickhoff at (920) 450-9800 or online for your free criminal defense consultation.