Murder/Homicide | Iowa Attorneys | GRL Law

Homicide or murder as it is commonly known is a very serious criminal offense in the State of Iowa and is defined as a person who kills another person with malice aforethought either express or implied.  Malice aforethought does not have a statutory definition but has been defined through case law and is often times associated with the word “premeditation” which requires the State to prove the person acted intentionally or deliberately to cause the persons death.  The State must also prove that the action of the person was the legal or proximate cause of the death.  In other words there must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the persons actions were a substantial factor in causing the death. Murder is broken down into several different categories depending up the severity of the offense.  

First Degree Murder

Murder in the first degree requires premeditation, deliberation, and the specific intent to kill another.  These elements which can be shown by direct or circumstantial evidence and the courts have recognized three ways to establish premeditation and deliberation which include: (1) evidence of planning activity by the defendant which was directed toward killing, (2) evidence of motive which might be inferred from prior relationships, and (3) evidence regarding the nature of the killing.  Murder in the first degree is classified as a Class A felony and requires life in prison without the possibility of parole.

First degree murder can also be proven under the felony murder rule which does not require the State to prove the accused acted willfully, deliberately, or with premeditation.  These elements are presumed to exist if the State proves the death of the person occurred while the accused was participating in a forcible felony.  A forcible felony is defined as any felonious assault, murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, arson in the first degree or burglary in the first degree.  However, the Iowa Supreme Court has concluded that if an act causing willful injury as a forcible felony is the same act that causes the victim’s death, that act cannot serve as the predicate felony for felony murder purposes.

Second Degree Murder

Murder in the second degree is defined as “murder which is not murder in the first degree” which still requires malice aforethought but it does not require the specific intent to kill.  Murder in the second degree has three elements that are required to be proven beyond a reasonable which include: (1) an act committed against the victim; (2) the victim’s death as a result of the act; and (3) the person acted with malice aforethought.  Murder in the second degree is a Class B felony which carries a mandatory prison sentence of fifty year of which seventy percent must be served prior to being eligible for parole.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without malice aforethought and deliberation.    This offense usually occurs when someone kills another as a result of “sudden, violent, irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation.”  What constitutes “serious provocation” will depend on the individual facts of each case but a spouse caught in the act of an extramarital affair or even an infant could cause “serious provocation.”  Voluntary manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder and is classified as a Class C forcible felony requiring a ten year prison sentence with completion of seventy percent of that time before the person is eligible for parole.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter can be committed in two ways.  The first requires unintentionally causing the death of another by commission of a public offense which is not a forcible felony or escape.  The second requires the unintentional killing of another by committing an act which is likely to cause death or serious injury.  Generally speaking, a violation of a rule of the road or committing a traffic violation which causes the death of another is not enough to prove this offense because there needs to be some form of recklessness.  However, unintentionally causing the death of another while operating while intoxicated is considered vehicular homicide (for the specifics of this offense click here).  Involuntary manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder and is punished either as a Class D felony under the public offense alternative carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and an aggravated misdemeanor under the other alternative carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison. 

If charged with one of the above listed offenses, it is imperative that competent legal counsel be sought out immediately to help ensure that a complete and accurate investigation is done.  Competent legal counsel will also be able to assist in evaluation whether the defenses of alibi, self -defense, intoxication, diminished responsibility, insanity, or any other defenses are available.

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