Columbia Murder Defense Lawyer

Being accused of involvement in the death of someone else is one of the most serious charges that you can face under South Carolina law. Your freedom and perhaps for the rest of your life could be in jeopardy. You can be certain that law enforcement will devote a significant amount of resources to prosecuting your case.

Therefore, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who is not afraid to go to trial and win. The murder defense attorneys at Shealey Law Firm in Columbia are battle-tested with significant experience in the courtroom. Call us today to get legal help.

Types of Murder Charges in South Carolina

There are numerous ways that a prosecutor can charge a defendant in connection with the death of another human being. The prosecutor will review the circumstances of the case to determine which charge they feel is appropriate. They may opt for a lesser charge than murder if they believe that they cannot prove the intent required for murder.

The various murder-related charges in South Carolina include:


South Carolina law provides for a general charge of murder (without different degrees) for the  “killing of any person with malice aforethought, either express or implied.” Murder can be charged in the following circumstances:

  • There was intent to kill
  • There was intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and someone died
  • One acted with an “abandoned and malignant heart” towards the value of a human life
  • Someone died in connection with the commission of a felony (felony murder)

Attempted murder

The law defines this as an attempt to kill another person with malice and aforethought. Intent is a required element of this charge, and there is not such thing as accidental attempted murder.


These charges involve killing another person, but without the malice aforethought required for a murder charge.

Involuntary manslaughter

This offense is charged when the defendant has caused the death of another human being through criminal negligence, which can include reckless conduct. An example of this would be a building contractor that knowingly sends its employees to work in unsafe conditions, and a fatal accident happens.

Reckless vehicular homicide

Causing a death while operating a vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of others is charged as reckless vehicular homicide. An example of this is a drunk driving crash that kills someone else.

Penalties for Murder-Related Charges in South Carolina

Any conviction involving the death of another human being will likely result in a jail sentence. The length of the sentence depends on the type of murder-related charge. In some cases, a prosecutor may agree to a deal that either recommends a lower sentence or allows for lesser charges. For example, in some cases, the prosecutor could allow a guilty plea to manslaughter (which carries a lesser sentence) instead of going to trial on a murder charge.

Potential penalties for murder-related convictions in South Carolina are as follows:

  • Murder requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison (with the potential for a life sentence or the death penalty)
  • Attempted murder is punishable with up to 30 years in prison.
  • Manslaughter carries a jail sentence of 2-30 years
  • Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to five years in jail
  • Reckless vehicular homicide means a sentence of up to ten years

As you can see, there are a variety of potential outcomes based on the charge and the sentence sought by the prosecutor.

When one is convicted of murder, a jury would consider various aggravating and mitigating circumstances when deciding whether to impose the death penalty. If there are aggravating factors, such as the defendant committing multiple murders or killing someone in the commission of another felony, there is a greater chance of a death sentence.

However, a jury may refrain from passing a death sentence if there are mitigating factors, such as the lack of a prior criminal record or some sort of provocation by the victim. Some defendants may agree to a plea bargain for murder charges in exchange for the prosecutor not recommending the death penalty.

Defenses to Murder-Related Charges

Because of the potential jail sentence involved, there are very high stakes for a murder-related defense. The actual defenses that you would use depends on the charged offense. For example, if you were defending against a murder or an attempted murder charge, you would argue that you did not have the necessary malice or aforethought.

Here are some other defenses to murder-related charges:

  • You have been falsely accused
  • You have an alibi that places you elsewhere at the time of the alleged crime
  • You were defending yourself or others within the State’s laws for self-defense
  • You are immune or should be immune from prosecution under S.C. Code Ann. § 16-11-440, the State’s Protection of People and Property Act, commonly referred to as Stand Your Ground or the castle doctrine
  • The evidence that is being used against you was illegally seized
  • Law enforcement violated your rights during the criminal justice process
  • The prosecutor cannot prove all the elements of the crime

Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty, and you are not the one who has the burden of proof in your case. However, you need to mount a strong legal defense when you are charged with a murder-related offense.

FAQs About Murder Charges

Is a confession always going to be enough to convict for murder?

Not necessarily, especially if the confession was coerced or obtained in violation of your Miranda rights.

Does one need to specifically intend to kill someone to be guilty of murder?

No. One could be convicted if they have an intent to commit grievous bodily harm, and the victim dies.

Can the law imply malice for murder?

Yes. In a murder case, malice can be either express or implied.

Contact a Columbia Murder Defense Attorney Today

The attorneys at Shealey Law Firm are in your corner in high-stakes legal cases. We understand what is on the line for you and your family, and we provide you with diligent and determined legal counsel.

You must hire a lawyer as soon as you learn that you are being investigated or have been charged with a murder-related offense. You can reach us at any time by sending us a message online or calling us today at 803-590-3917.


Get a Case Review

Ask us to evaluate your case by submitting a few details about your situation below.

"*" indicates required fields

By submitting this form, you agree to receive calls or text messages about your case from Shealey Law Firm. Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.