In the State of Minnesota, there are several degrees of murder that one can be charged with. There are also other laws that involve murder or the unlawful killing of another human being that does not rise to the level of murder.

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder charges in Minnesota, just as in many other states, is considered to be the most heinous and severe forms of murder. A first-degree murder charge classification has aggravating factors involved before this level of crime is charged. This level of a murder charge is based on the identity of who has been murdered.

An example of a first-degree murder charge would be:

  • If a spouse kills their partner after continued domestic abuse
  • A child is killed
  • Killing a cop
  • Killing a witness to prevent them from testifying against one’s self
  • Killing a judge
  • Causing the death of prosecuting attorney
  • Causing the death of a guard employed as a Minnesota local or state correctional facility
  • Causing the death of any individual who is engaged in their performance of official duties

Other reasons for a first-degree murder charge result from the defendant’s conduct. Minnesota Statute 609.185 defines the first-degree murder charge as:

  • Premeditated murder or preparing for the kill before it is committed. If you cause another human being to die as was your intent to affect their death upon the actions you took
  • Killing a person during a sexual assault. If you’ve committed a criminal sexual crime in the first or second-degree by using violence or force, and it results in the death of your victim
  • Killing a person during a burglary. If you’ve committed or attempted to commit a burglary, and during the course of your actions, you kill the victim
  • Killing someone during an aggravated robbery. The same is true for aggravated burglary and burglary where if you kill a victim because of your actions while committing the crime
  • A person dies as a result of you kidnapping them. If you kidnap another and because of the action you took or didn’t take, causes the victim to die, it will be charged as first-degree murder
  • A person dies as a result of a fire you purposely started (arson). This charge applies if you intentionally start a fire and someone dies as a result of that fire
  • A person dies as a result of an act of terrorism you committed. If another human being loses their life while you have engaged, or conspired to commit a felony crime to further terrorism, it is charged as first-degree murder as this shows an extreme indifference to human life
  • A person dies as a result of a ‘drive-by’ shooting you committed
  • A person dies as a result of any felony violation of chapter 152 that involves an illegal sale of a controlled substance

There is no death penalty in the state of Minnesota; therefore, the strictest sentence one can receive for a conviction of first-degree murder is a life sentence in prison. In order to convict one of this heinous murder charge, intent to kill must be proven by the state.

In order to prove intent in a murder charge, the prosecution must show that you were aware, as any reasonable individual would be, that your actions were going to result in someone’s death. It must be proven; the actions were taken with the ‘intent’ to end another’s life.

With a first-degree murder conviction, the prosecution must prove both intent and premeditation. In order to prove premeditation, it must be shown that the death of the victim was planned, and the killing did not result from an action taken in the heat of the moment.’

Murder Degrees in Minnesota

Two significant factors that influence murder charge degrees are premeditation ad intent. Whether or not a reasonable person is able to expect their actions will result in the loss of someone’s life is considered intent. Premeditation is when a person plans a murder. First-degree requires premeditation and intent, and second-degree murder requires intent but not premeditation. Third-degree murder does not require premeditation or intent.

Second-Degree Murder

With a second-degree murder charge, it must be proven the killing was intentional, but it is not considered as serious as first-degree. With a second-degree murder, it must be proven that one has killed another human being intentionally, but the killing was not planned beforehand.

A second-degree murder charge can occur if a person kills out of an intense emotional impulse or response. Examples of a second-degree murder include:

  • Killing someone during a drive-by shooting
  • Killing a human being while you are committing a crime that is not considered a sexual assault
  • Killing another unintentionally while you intended to inflict physical harm to a victim who has an order of protection

A second-degree murder conviction can result in a forty-year prison sentence.

Third-Degree Murder

A third-degree murder charge falls between a third-degree murder and manslaughter. The death of the victim is deemed not to have been intentional. This murder charge is often considered a mind crime or a depraved heart. Third-degree murder can be the result of someone firing a gun into a crowd but did not intend to kill anyone present. This murder charge can also result when a person is killed, and you have shown an indifference to the sanctity of human life.

Another example of a third-degree murder would be if you sell bad drugs to another, and these caused your death. If convicted of third-degree murder, you would be facing up to twenty-five years in prison. If death is the result of Schedule I or II drugs, there will also be a fine attached to sentencing, which can run as high as $40,000.

Voluntary Manslaughter

A charge of voluntary manslaughter can apply rather than a murder charge if you commit a killing due to having been provoked by an intense emotional response. Voluntary manslaughter is most times called a ‘crime of passion.’ Situations that can result in a voluntary manslaughter charge include unintentionally causing another human being to die because you’ve distributed Schedule I or II illegal drugs. If you are convicted of voluntary manslaughter, you could spend up to fifteen years in prison and have to pay $30,000 in fines.

Involuntary Manslaughter

A charge of involuntary manslaughter means you have caused the death of another based on your negligence. Child abuse is an example of involuntary manslaughter as well as vehicular homicide. If a death has resulted where you were negligently operating a vehicle and it results in the death of another, you could face involuntary manslaughter charges. A conviction of this charge can result in a ten-year prison sentence along with a $20,000 fine.

Aiding and Abetting a Murder/Homicide

You may not believe you’ve committed a crime if you’ve only provided a weapon, or perhaps just made sure a door remained unlocked, but these are crimes if your actions resulted in the murder of another human being. Performing these actions is considered aiding and abetting and that you’ve encouraged another to commit a crime, even if you were not present at the place where the crime happened.

If you are charged with aiding and abetting, you are considered an accessory before the fact, or an accomplice. You can be held criminally liable and just accountable as the person who committed the actual murder.

The definition of a person who encourages, abets, or aids another person to perform a crime, even if they are not at the scene of the crime, is considered an accessory before the fact. This charge is the same as being an accomplice, and you can be held criminally liable to the same extent of the law as the person who actually commits the crime. In many jurisdictions, an accessory before the fact is the same, and charged the same, as an accomplice. 

If you were unaware the murder was going to happen, but then after the act, you concealed the weapon used or gave a false alibi for the one who performed the killing, you have also committed a crime. Anyone who helps another to commit a felony, even after the fact, but with the knowledge the crime took place, is an accessory after the fact, and can be held liable for numerous charges.

The definition of a person who helps someone who has committed a crime with the knowledge they have committed the crime to avoid arrest or punishment is considered an accessory after the fact. Charged as an accessory after the fact means you will be held liable for obstruction of justice as well as other crimes. Obstruction of justice means you have corruptly or threatened by force, or some other form of threat to influence, impede, or obstruct the due administration of the police. A charge of obstruction of justice means you have specifically intended to interfere or obstruct a judicial proceeding. To be convicted of obstruction of justice, it must be proven that you knew about the processes or actual crime, and you had a connection with the proceedings with your endeavor to obstruct its outcome.  

Terminology with Murder/Homicide Charges

There are a lot of legal words and phrases used in a court case involving a murder or homicide charge, and many you will talk with your attorney about from Ringstrom Law. Some of the more common ones include:

This is a phrase we hear about with all criminally charged persons, but does it actually mean you are innocent? The phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ does not mean you are innocent, and it does not mean others believe you are innocent of your charges. This phrase is simply a legal concept which indicates you have to be presumed innocent as the state has the burden of proving you committed the crime they are charging.  

Ringstrom Law will also presume you are innocent until the state has proven its case. We believe in providing you the support you need when going through the process of a murder trial, and will do everything in our power to prove your innocence, or to have your charges reduced.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is a phrase often used in jury trials as the jury has to convict you on the evidence presented by the prosecution without any doubt that you are guilty of the crime they are charging you with. Reasonable doubt is the standard of proof used in criminal trials, and if the jury has any doubts concerning the evidence that has been presented during your trial, they have to pronounce you ‘not guilty.’  

There is no statute of limitations for a murder/homicide charge. If you’ve been involved in a murder, it does not matter how long ago it was committed, or how long you’ve been hiding or running to avoid the charges. When you are caught, no matter how many years after the act, you will still receive just as harsh a sentence as the day it occurred.  

It may seem like its been punishment to have spent what feels like a lifetime looking over your shoulder, but the law does not look at it that way. You are much better coming forward right away than spending your life and your time being hunted like an animal.

A discussion on murder/homicide charges is not complete without mentioning ‘wrongful death.’ A wrongful death lawsuit is charged to someone who has supposedly caused someone to die through a wrongful act, or through negligence.  

In a wrongful death lawsuit, it is typically the family of the victim who is pressing charges on behalf of a family member they have lost. When a civil case is filed for wrongful death, there is less of a burden of proof required than what is expected in a criminal case. With this type of lawsuit, one side has more evidence in its favor than the others, and this can be enough proof to win a case.

Criminal cases have much stricter standards of proving guilt as the defendant will permanently lose their liberty if found guilty. In civil cases, the outcome generally means the family of the victim will be awarded an amount of money as a form of compensation for the loss of a loved one.

No matter which degree of murder/homicide you are being charged with, you need a strong criminal defense attorney working with you. Ringstrom Law is here for you and will represent you with the diligence and integrity you deserve to fight these charges.

Defending Murder/Homicide Charges

Building a defense strategy against a murder/homicide charge includes making a case that you did not commit the killing. If you’ve admitted to the crime, then the defense strategy would be that it was justified, or that you did not have an intent to commit a killing that is required for a murder charge. Some of the strategies your attorney at Ringstrom Law can use in defending you against these horrible charges include:

Sometimes a homicide is not a crime, but rather the killing was legally justified. Common justifications are self-defense or defense of others. Your attorney at Ringstrom Law can argue successfully if you acted with reasonable use of force against a reasonable threat of death or a reasonable threat of bodily harm.  

Being innocent of a murder charge is serious. This criminal process and the repercussions that come from such an error in the judicial system can be devastating. If there has been a case of mistaken identity and you have not committed this murder, you need a strong and reliable criminal defense attorney to clear your name. Ringstrom Law should be contacted immediately to help you find the evidence and build your case for a dismissal of these charges. An alibi proving your innocence is the most effective, as well as the evidence proving the validity of forensic material. Your attorney at Ringstrom Law will take the path to make the best defense plan for you.  

If you have mental illness and it has caused you to cognitively be unable to appreciate the consequences of your actions, your attorney at Ringstrom Law can enter an insanity defense on your behalf. This defense line is used in about one percent of all homicide cases as it can be challenging to prove, and after the legal proceedings, you would be committed to a mental institution.  

If you have killed someone as a result of an accident while performing lawful activities, it is not considered a crime. The misfortune or accident defense is often used to reduce manslaughter or murder charges.  

Who to Contact When Facing Murder/Homicide Charges Near Me

A charge of murder or homicide is one of the most severe criminal charges you can face. You need Ringstrom Law to help you through this incredibly difficult legal challenge. Call 218-284-0484 immediately upon your arrest, and before making statements to the authorities. We are ready to get behind you and help defend you against these charges and find the best solution possible.
MN criminal defense attorneys Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in MN & ND

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  • Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • MSBA: Minnesota State Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • State Bar Association of North Dakota

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