Pennsylvania State Police Use Deadly Force in Philadelphia -Will the DA’s investigation conclude a justified shooting, manslaughter or Murder? What is the difference?
Our criminal defense law firm defends individuals charged with crimes and offenses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These charges vary but sometimes they involve crimes where the alleged victim dies as the result of our client’s alleged unlawful conduct. Despite what many people believe, all criminal charges that result following an intentional or reckless killing do not constitute murder in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. While murder is obviously a possible charge, there are various categories of homicide.
Pennsylvania State Police I-95 Incident involving the death of Anthony Allegrini, Jr. – Murder, Manslaughter, or a justified police shooting?
Recently, an incident occurred in Philadelphia involving the state police and alleged street racers. The Troopers responded to the incident and came upon a car stopped on the highway. When the troopers approached and investigated the car, it allegedly took off, striking 2 troopers. The troopers responded by firing at the vehicle. At least one shot struck and killed Anthony Allegrini, Jr. who was in the driver’s seat of his Audi A4. Allegrini’s family and friends have described him as just a bystander who was wrongfully killed. State Police, however, have not issued a final report on what occurred and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has said that the investigation could take some time to form a conclusion as to what occurred. Ultimately, Krasner and not the State Police will decide if the Trooper who fired the fatal shot will face prosecution.
If Krasner does decide to charge the Trooper with homicide, his defense attorney will likely argue that he was acting with justification based on the circumstances surrounding this incident. If charged, the Trooper would likely face Manslaughter and Murder charges. While both fall under the Homicide category, the severity and possible consequences of these criminal charges is very different.
What is a homicide in Pennsylvania?
Homicide is defined as the unlawful killing of one person by another person. Within homicide there are subcategories including Murder (Title 18, Section 2502), Voluntary Manslaughter (Title 18, Section 2503), and Involuntary Manslaughter (See Title 18 Section 2504). Murder of the first degree is defined as the intentional killing of another person with premeditation and deliberation. It carries with it a mandatory life without parole sentence. This charge is very unlikely in this case
Murder of the second degree is a felony murder which is the killing (or death) of another person while in the commission of a felony crime, such as a robbery, burglary, or even arson (felony murder). This charge is also unlikely! Murder of the third degree, however, is all other murders. If the trooper is charged here, it will likely be Murder 3. Below a murder charge, there are the lesser crimes of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
What is manslaughter in Pennsylvania?
Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another without lawful justification. Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as imperfect self-defense (justification). It is where a person acts with the intent to kill another person because that person believes that his/her life is at risk or they are at risk of serious bodily injury. If charged, the Trooper would likely face at least this charge.
Finally, Involuntary Manslaughter, unlike murder of the third degree and voluntary manslaughter isn’t a felony offense. A person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when as a direct result of doing an unlawful act in a reckless or gross and negligent manner or doing a lawful act in a recklessly or grossly negligent manner he causes the death of another person. This is a possible charge against the trooper
What will happen next if the Trooper is arrested and charged – Preliminary Hearing
An accused person in Pennsylvania has the right to a preliminary hearing with exception to those matters where a grand jury is used in a prosecution. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to prevent the Commonwealth (State) from unlawfully arresting and detaining someone for a crime which was either never committed or for which there is no evidence of the accused’s involvement.
At a preliminary hearing, the District Attorney must establish at least a “prima facie” level of proof that a crime was committed and that the accused person was the one who committed that crime. This is a substantially lower level of proof then that required at trial which is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. At a preliminary hearing the district attorney must present legally competent evidence which connects the accused to a crime regardless of the crime. Preliminary hearings are important because they not only present an opportunity for the defense to get a look at the prosecution’s case but also allow the defense an opportunity to get charges dismissed or downgraded.
You should only consider waiving a preliminary hearing if the prosecution agrees to withdraw a serious charge. For example, in this case if the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office proposed a waiver in exchange for withdrawing a lead murder 3 charge.
It is, however, too early to determine where this case will go. The investigation could take months! If the Trooper is charged this case will make national news. Our law firm will continue to provide updates and use this case as an example to explain your rights under our constitution.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in PA & NJ
Please click here to contact our criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas