Criminal homicide is defined as the unlawful killing of another person or persons. In Tennessee, you can be charged with a number of different crimes, which all fall under the umbrella of homicide:
- First degree murder, which is divided into two categories. A first degree premeditated murder is a planned and intentional killing, while a first degree felony murder is a killing in connection with robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, arson, rape, aggravated child abuse, and or other enumerated offenses.
- Second degree murder, a knowing killing. Also, prosecutors can pursue second degree murder charges if a death is connected to the distribution, production, possession, and/or use of controlled substances, such as heroin and cocaine, which often caused, either in part or in whole, a user’s death.
- Voluntary manslaughter, an intentional or willful killing as a result of passion, provocation, and irrationality.
- Vehicular manslaughter, the reckless killing of another person or persons using a motorized vehicle (a car, a boat, a plane, etc.), related to drinking or drug use, drag racing, or “the driver’s conduct in a posted construction zone where the person killed was an employee of the department of transportation or a highway construction worker.”
- Criminal negligent homicide, which is any negligent behavior that results in a death.
You can find the entire statute here, if you would like to read more about it. All homicides are felony crimes, which means if you are convicted, you will spend time in prison, not the local jail.
What penalties are there for criminal homicide?
If you are convicted of one of these charges, your penalties will vary based on the charge itself, as well as any other additional charges. For instance, first degree murder is the most serious offense in the State of Tennessee, and a conviction will result in either (1) the death penalty, (2) life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, or (3) life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Similarly, individuals convicted of vehicular homicide must serve a mandatory minimum period of incarceration anywhere from 48 uninterrupted hours to 150 uninterrupted days, and they are disallowed or restricted from driving for anywhere from three years to ten years. Vehicular homicide convicts do not qualify for release, parole, probation, or reinstated driving privileges until they have served their mandatory minimum sentence (anywhere between 2 and 30 years, depending on whether you were convicted of a Class B, C or D felony) and proven that they will not commit vehicular homicide again.
A second degree murder conviction is a Class A felony conviction. Depending on your particular case, you could spend anywhere between 15 and 60 years in prison. Voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony, means two to 12 years in prison, whereas criminally negligent homicide is a Class E felony, and could land you in prison for up to six years.
There are exceptions to these penalties. Under Tennessee law, intellectually disabled, legally incompetent, and legally insane defendants cannot be sentenced to death as they are presumed to not understand their actions, and for many courts executing intellectually disabled, legally incompetent, and legally insane individuals constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in these types of cases.
If you have been charged with homicide in any of its incarnations, you need a lawyer – now. Delius & McKenzie, PLLC knows what it takes to keep you out of prison. To speak with an experienced Sevierville murder defense attorney, please call (865) 428-8780 or fill out our contact form. We proudly serve Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Seymour and Pigeon Forge.
Attorney Bryan E. Delius was born and raised in Sevier County, TN. He founded Delius & McKenzie more than 20 years ago, after receiving his JD from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is admitted in Tennessee and in several federal court systems. Learn more about Bryan E. Delius.