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First degree intentional homicide defense – Contact Meyer Van Severen for your best defense

First degree intentional homicide is the most serious crime in Wisconsin.  There are only a few other crimes in the state that qualify as Class A felony charges.  Although Wisconsin isn’t a death penalty state, a Class A felony penalty sends you to prison for the rest of your life.  It’s the highest penalty an individual faces.  Because of the aggravated nature of first-degree intentional homicide charges, it’s crucial you hire a top criminal defense attorney for your case.

Our criminal defense attorneys regularly fight high-profile criminal charges.  Those certainly regularly include homicide cases.  A charge like first degree intentional homicide requires a dedicated, aggressive, specialized team of criminal defense attorneys. And that’s why we dedicate our entire practice to criminal defense.  We don’t handle non-criminal cases.  And the reason we do that is simple: it allows us to specialize.  It makes us better criminal defense attorneys, and it achieves you better results.  Call us at (414) 270-0202 and let’s start defending your homicide case.

What is first degree intentional homicide?

Section 940.01 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits first degree intentional homicide.  940.01(1)(a) says: “… whoever causes the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or another is guilty of a Class A felony.”

All criminal charges have “elements,” which are parts of the crime.  Prosecutors must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt to render a conviction against you.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1010 provides the two elements of first degree intentional homicide:

  1. The defendant caused the death of the victim.
  2. The defendant acted with intent to kill the victim or another human.

Cause means the defendant’s act was a substantial factor in producing the death.  Intent to kill means the defendant had the mental purpose to take the life of another human being or was aware that his conduct was practically certain to cause the death of another human being.  In order to prepare a proper defense, your murder defense attorney must understand these important definitions.

Court cases involving the charge:

Appellate courts have had a chance to further explore and define first degree intentional homicide.  In State v. Block, the Court of Appeals made clear that the defendant’s actions need not be the sole cause of the victim’s death.  The prosecutor must prove the defendant’s actions were a substantial factor in causing the death.  This is important in a co-defendant case, where your defense might be that the other person did it.

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What are mitigating circumstances?

Mitigating circumstances are certainly important to consider while defending intentional murder charges.  While they don’t excuse the defendant’s actions, they reduce the offense.  When properly found, the following mitigating circumstances reduce this charge to second degree intentional homicide:

  • Adequate provocation.  The victim’s death was caused under the influence of adequate provocation.
  • Unnecessary defensive force.  The death was caused because the actor believed he/someone else was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and that the force was necessary to defend the endangered person, if either believe was unreasonable.
  • Prevention of felony.  The death was caused because the actor believed that the force was necessary in the exercise of privilege to prevent or terminate the commission of a felony, if that belief was unreasonable.
  • Coercion; necessity.  Death was caused in the exercise of coercion/necessity privileges.

And this is certainly huge.  Second degree intentional homicide is a Class B felony, carrying with it a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison.  While that doesn’t sound like a big difference, it certainly is.  Upon conviction you cannot spend “life” in prison on a Class B felony.

Finally, the mitigating circumstances we described are affirmative defenses.  Upon the defense showing an affirmative defense, the government must disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt.  This requires the government to show the defense doesn’t exist before the defendant can be found guilty.


A victim of a murder.
First degree intentional homicide charges are the most serious crime in Wisconsin. Contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. for help. (414) 270-0202

What if I confessed to the crime?

Now is the time that hiring a criminal defense attorney unafraid to file motions is the most important.  Although you might be wondering why a defense lawyer wouldn’t file motions, the answer is simple: it takes work.  And work takes hours.  And some criminal defense attorneys are lazy.  The murder defense lawyers at Meyer Van Severen, S.C. regularly file motions challenging illegal police conduct.

If you confessed to first degree intentional homicide, we first need to determine whether your interrogation was constitutional.  Police must read your Miranda rights before initiating custodial interrogation.  Unless those rights are read, and you’re in custody, and you’re being questioned, the statement can’t be used against you.

While we always suggest you maintain your right to silence, a confession isn’t the end of the line.  Let’s assume police properly gave your Miranda warnings.  Is your statement a false confession?  In a false confession situation we’d consult with an expert to review police conduct while questioning you.

How do we defend my case?

Attacking a confession is crucial to your defense, but there are other issues we need to get into while defending your murder charges.

Firstly, what do all of the witnesses say?  Or, alternatively, were there any witnesses are all?  Witnesses to homicides are not always the most credible.  For example, sometimes homicides occur at bars.  Sometimes they occur when all the witnesses were intoxicated.  How clearly did that witness see what happened?  How much did he have to drink?  Certainly getting into all of these issues could help your case.  We’d likely begin investigating this issue by having a private investigator make contact with the witnesses.  We want to start poking holes in what those individuals have to say well before they’re in front of a jury.

Do you have an alibi?  This is something we’ll need to discuss on the very front end.  If you were someplace else when the homicide occurred, we’ll want to solidify that before turning it over to prosecutors.  The reason for this is simple: upon learning of your alibi, the government is going to do its very best to challenge it.  And usually the first way they do that is by sending the cops out to investigate.  Certain law enforcement officers might get overly pushy and might do their very best to convince your alibi to change his or her story.

Call Meyer Van Severen for homicide defense. (414) 270-0202

Our criminal defense attorneys regularly fight homicide charges.  If you face intentional homicide charges, or any other criminal offense, certainly give us a call.  We answer phones 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.

Finally, remember: this charge is the most serious criminal allegation one can face in Wisconsin.  Don’t window shop for the cheapest attorney in town.  Instead, hire the very best you can find.  While a cheap attorney will save you a little bit of money, what is your life worth?