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Murder in the Second Degree or Manslaughter? Police Sometimes Get Charged Too

Two police officers are being charged in the death of a 6-year-old boy. They felt they had justification for shooting into a fleeing suspect's car recently, as part of a criminal investigation into a crime. Whether they knew the boy was present is not clear, but I feel that is unlikely. The two officers have been charged with Second Degree Murder and Attempted Second Degree Murder after firing multiple shots. Police officials have not offered any support for the officers, stating that the department's badge has been tarnished by this incident.

Murder in the Second Degree or Second Degree Murder in Denver

Murder and Homicide are the same crime in Arapahoe and Douglas County. They are set apart in Colorado law as First Degree Murder / Homicide, C.R.S. 18-3-102 and 2nd Degree Murder / Homicide, C.R.S. 18-3-103.

Second Degree Murder is defined as:

A person commits the crime of Murder in the Second Degree if the person knowingly causes the death of a person. Murder in the second degree is a class 2 felony. Murder in the second degree is a class 3 felony where the act causing the death was performed upon a sudden heat of passion, caused by a serious and highly provoking act of the intended victim, affecting the defendant sufficiently to excite an irresistible passion in a reasonable person; but, if between the provocation and the killing there is an interval sufficient for the voice of reason and humanity to be heard, the killing is a class 2 felony.

Under this definition, the prosecutor's office, known as the District Attorney, will have a difficult time proving their case. "Knowingly causes the death of a person" would mean the officers knew the child was in the car and tried to kill the child. There is no evidence this was the case. I am confident the officers did not know the boy was present. Most officers have the training and the presence of mind to not shoot into a car when a child is present. Two officers abandoning their training on this point is highly unlikely.

Manslaughter is the Better Charge for this Denver Crime

A better charge against these officers would be Manslaughter, with the definition at C.R.S. 18-3-104. A person commits the crime of Manslaughter if:

a) such person recklessly causes the death of another person; or

b) such person intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.

Manslaughter is a class 4 felony in Jefferson and Adams County, and it carries a possible prison sentence to the Department of Corrections. An important definition accompanying this crime is "Recklessly." "A person acts Recklessly when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists." Complicating this definition in the case above is that police officers have a privilege to use deadly force in many circumstances. A jury will be more permissive for police in using deadly force, as here, if they felt they were in danger. Even with the charge of Manslaughter, the DA will be hard pressed to prove his case if the officers had no idea the child was present.

When you are charged with Second Degree Murder or Homicide, you need a criminal defense attorney who cares about you and your future. When you, your family, and your life are on the line, never speak to the police, but keep silent. Then, call us 24 / 7 at 303-731-0719. Together, we can protect your future.

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