Virginia Aggravated Murder Lawyer
In 2021, Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly, which formally abolished capital punishment in the Commonwealth. This means there is no longer a charge for “capital murder” defined under state law. However, the offense that used to be called “capital murder” is still included in the Code of Virginia as “aggravated murder,” and it is still the most severely punished criminal offense anyone can be charged with in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
When you have been charged with aggravated murder, you cannot afford to move forward with your case without an experienced and tenacious defense attorney on your side. Working closely with a Virginia aggravated murder lawyer could make all the difference in the effectiveness of your case and what outcome it has for you.
Defining Aggravated Murder as a Criminal Offense
Code of Virginia § 18.2-31 differentiates “aggravated murder” from other degrees of murder based on whether the act in question was “willful, deliberate, and premeditated” and whether it had one or more aggravating conditions listed in the statute. There are fifteen circumstances under which a willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder may be prosecuted as aggravated murder:
- The murder occurred during an abduction—as defined under VA Code § 18.2-48—committed with the intention of extorting money from someone else or “defiling” the target of the abduction
- The murder was done for hire
- The defendant was a prisoner confined in any correctional facility or in the custody of someone employed by such a facility
- The murder occurred during an attempted or actual robbery
- The murder occurred either during or immediately after attempted or actual rape, forcible sodomy, or sexual penetration with an object
- The targeted person was a law enforcement officer or fire marshal, and the defendant intended for their actions to interfere with that officer or marshal performing their official duties
- The defendant murdered more than one person as part of the same act
- The defendant murdered more than one person inside a continuous three-year period
- The murder occurred during an attempted or actual drug deal involving a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance as defined under VA Code §18.2-248, where the defendant’s actions were intended to further the completion of the transaction
- The murder occurred pursuant to the order of someone engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise as defined under VA Code §18.2-248
- The targeted person was pregnant, the defendant knew that person was pregnant, and the defendant’s intent was to cause the pregnancy to be terminated involuntarily without a live birth
- The targeted person was under 14 years old, and the defendant was at least 21 years old
- The murder occurred during an attempted or actual act of terrorism
- The targeted person was a duly appointed judge in any state court, and the defendant’s intent was to interfere with the performance of that judge’s official duties
- The targeted person was a subpoenaed witness to a criminal case, and the defendant’s intent was to interfere with case proceedings
A Virginia aggravated murder attorney could help contest charges based on any of these alleged circumstances.
How Is Aggravated Murder Punished in Virginia?
Following the abolishment of capital punishment in Virginia, aggravated murder is now punishable upon conviction by a mandatory life sentence in prison, provided the defendant is at least 18 years old when the offense occurred. Since aggravated murder is a Class 1 felony, convicted individuals over 18 years of age are also not eligible for parole, good conduct allowances or earned sentence credits, or conditional release. The unique severity of these sanctions underscores the importance of seeking help from a seasoned defense attorney following an aggravated murder accusation in Virginia.
Contact a Virginia Aggravated Murder Attorney Today
There is no crime in the Virginia Code that courts punish more harshly than aggravated murder. Even though capital punishment is no longer applied in the Commonwealth, a conviction for this offense will almost inevitably lead to life imprisonment.
A Virginia aggravated murder lawyer could be a vital ally from start to finish of your criminal proceedings. Call today to get started.