Federal Attempt to Commit Murder or Manslaughter Law - 18 U.S. C. § 1113
Murder and manslaughter are two of the most severe crimes in the United States. A variation not often discussed is what can happen when the offense was attempted but ultimately remained unsuccessful.
Federal laws penalize criminal homicide if you commit murder or manslaughter with severe punishments, including the death penalty. When murder or manslaughter cases are prosecuted at the federal level, they are usually high-profile cases.
Often, federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are under pressure to complete their criminal investigation and indict the alleged perpetrator. Thus, in some cases, innocent people face a federal indictment for murder or manslaughter by overbearing prosecutors seeking to solve a homicide case quickly to appease critics.
Homicide is a legal term used to describe any killing of a human being by another person, but not all homicides are illegal, such as killing someone in self-defense. However, criminal homicide is the unlawful killing of another person.
Federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 1111 defines the crime of murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.” The statute includes lying in wait or any willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing. There are first-degree and second-degree murders at the federal level.
Federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 1112 defines the crime of manslaughter as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” Further, a prosecutor can file two types of manslaughter charges in federal court.
This includes voluntary manslaughter, a homicide occurring “upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion,” and involuntary manslaughter, which occurs “in the commission of an unlawful act, not a felony, or without due caution of a lawful act which might produce death.”
This page by our federal criminal defense lawyers will explore this topic, providing details that could be important if you have been federally charged with an attempt to commit murder or manslaughter.
Comparing Murder and Manslaughter
To fully understand the scope and ramifications of 18 U.S.C. § 1113, knowing what constitutes murder or manslaughter is crucial. Both offenses refer to an individual killing another individual. The difference between them comes down to intent.
Murder, as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1111, is the planned and intentional killing of another person. It is further categorized into two levels of severity.
First-degree murder is any murder that is committed with premeditated intent to kill or murder that is committed while perpetrating a premeditated felony, such as:
- Sexual abuse,
- Child abuse,
Second-degree murder pertains to an intentional but unplanned killing or conduct considered reckless and malice. Examples of this include:
- Killing someone in response to prior provocation or assault,
- Any other intentional murder that was not premeditated.
In contrast, manslaughter, as characterized by 18 U.S.C. § 1112, is the killing of another person without malice or intent. It also has two variations:
Voluntary manslaughter is used when a killing is unintentional but occurs while participating in an act that could reasonably cause death, such as:
- Recklessly firing a gun in public, resulting in death,
- Unintentionally killing a cheating spouse in the heat of passion.
Involuntary manslaughter is used when a reckless or criminally negligent act leads to the killing of an individual. For example:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, resulting in death,
- Fatally striking someone due to negligent texting while driving.
State Crimes Versus Federal Crimes
Both murder and manslaughter, and by extension, attempted murder and manslaughter, are crimes typically prosecuted at the state level.
In certain circumstances, federal prosecutors will take control of the case and try it in the federal courts. The reasons attempted murder or manslaughter charges may become federal include:
- The attempted crime took place on federal property,
- State lines were crossed in an attempt to commit the crime,
- The crime was attempted on a body of water,
- The attempted crime occurred in an airplane or at an airport,
- A federal law was violated while attempting to commit murder or manslaughter.
Furthermore, the murder or manslaughter target can cause the case to fall under federal jurisdiction. Potential victims might be:
- Elected officials, such as the president of the United States or members of Congress,
- Federal judges,
- Federal law enforcement officials, such as FBI agents.
What Are the Penalties?
18 U.S. Code § 1113 outlines the penalties that can be expected if convicted at the federal level. Unlike other federal crimes, however, the penalties for attempts are lesser than those for successfully committing the crime.
The statute states that an attempt to commit murder carries a maximum of 20 years in federal prison and heavy fines. Attempting to commit manslaughter carries fines and a maximum sentence of 7 years.
What Charges Are Related to 18 U.S.C. § 1113?
- 18 U.S.C. § 1111 - Murder
- 18 U.S.C. § 1112 - Manslaughter,
- 18 U.S.C. § 2113 - Bank robbery and incidental crimes,
- 18 U.S.C. 1114 - Protection of employees of the United States,
- 18 U.S.C. 1115 - Misconduct or neglect of ship officers,
- 18 U.S.C. 1116 - Murder or manslaughter of foreign officials,
- 18 U.S.C. 1117 - Conspiracy to murder,
- 18 U.S.C. 1118 - Murder by a federal prisoner,
- 18 U.S.C 1119 - Foreign murder of United States nationals
- 18 U.S.C. 1120 - Murder by escaped prisoners,
- 18 U.S.C 1121 - Killing persons aiding Federal investigations,
- 18 U.S.C. §249 - Hate crimes,
- 18 U.S.C. § 351 - Murder of elected officials,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1512 - Killing to influence the outcome of a court case,
- 18 U.S.C. § 2280 - Murder Aboard a ship,
- 18 U.S.C. § 36 - Drive-by-shooting,
- 18 U.S.C. § 2248 - Murder related to rape, child molestation,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1958 - Murder for hire,
- 18 U.S.C. § 1716 – Murder by mail.
What Defenses Are Available?
If you have been federally charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1113, the defenses you and your lawyer choose to employ may mirror common defense strategies for murder and manslaughter. Possible strategies are discussed below.
Perhaps the attempted murder resulted from self-defense, the defense of someone else, or your property. Perhaps attempting murder or manslaughter was never your intention, or you abandoned your plans before you took a step toward committing the crime.
Maybe the attempted murder or manslaughter was due to legal insanity. Perhaps you only tried murder or manslaughter because you were provoked in some way or believed you were in danger.
If you are facing attempted murder charges, you might also choose to argue that you had no bad intent, which may allow the charge to be reduced to attempted manslaughter.
Every case is different. The most effective way to know what strategy is best for your specific situation is to consult with an experienced lawyer.
To protect your legal rights and possibly avoid a criminal conviction for murder or manslaughter, you will need a defense lawyer with extensive experience handling criminal cases in a federal courtroom. In other words, there is no substitute for experience to have the best chance at a favorable outcome in a plea bargain.
The Los Angeles-based federal criminal defense law firm at Eisner Gorin LLP provides legal representation against federal offenses across the country. Contact us by phone or using the contact form for an initial case consultation.