Homicide & Culpable Driving
We regularly assist clients and their families with allegations of:
- Attempted Murder
- Culpable Driving Causing Death
- Driving Dangerously Causing Death (or Serious Injury)
- Negligently Causing Serious Injury
Many law firms practice in Criminal Law but not many have the depth of experience that we have in dealing with matters involving a death. Such matters are often complex, emotionally charged and conceptually difficult.
At Stary Norton Halphen we have worked on numerous homicide cases. Some are high profile, many less so. But all homicide cases require a high level of attention, expert forensic judgement and careful analysis. We assure you that you will get nothing less than this at Stary Norton Halphen.
Bail in Homicide Cases
When a person is alleged to have been involved in a homicide they are almost always remanded in custody. This means that one of the first issues which must be considered is whether or not that person has any prospect of being bailed. The type of homicide with which a person has been charged will be one significant consideration that will inform a lawyer as to whether that person has realistic prospects of bail. This is because the test for bail is different for different offences.
For example, when a person is charged with murder, the accused must demonstrate to the Court that there are 'exceptional circumstances' which exist, before the Court will even consider whether that person is an acceptable risk to be bailed while they await trial. The exceptional circumstances test is not easily met, particularly if the offence a person has been charged with is as serious as murder. Accordingly, those charged with murder are rarely bailed. However, they are from time to time. A specialist criminal defence lawyer with experience in homicide cases will be able to identify when bail is possible for a client is facing a murder charge.
However, when a person is charged with dangerous driving causing death the test that is applied by the Court is not as onerous. In such a situation s/he must demonstrate to the Court that there are ‘compelling reasons’ as to why their continued detention is unjustified before the Court will consider whether they are an acceptable risk to be bailed while awaiting their trial. Accordingly, a person accused of this offence is more likely to be bailed than a person charged with murder. Again, an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to identify the circumstances when bail is possible when a person is charged with driving in a dangerous manner causing death.
Preparation in Homicide Cases
There are many other matters which a lawyer must consider in cases involving a homicide.
Some of these matters are best attended to early. For example, a person charged with murder may have available to them a mental impairment defence. If that it is the case it is essential that they are assessed by a forensic psychiatrist as quickly as possible, particularly if it appears that they are exhibiting symptoms of a psychiatric condition. In a culpable driving case, however, an accident reconstruction expert is more likely to be required and, in some instances, it will assist a case significantly if that expert is able to access the location of the offending as soon as possible after a collision has occurred. There are many other situations in which an expert will be required. Sometimes you have time before engaging them, sometimes you need to get onto it straight away. An expert criminal lawyer will be aware of these matters and act accordingly.
Procedure in Homicide Cases
Cases involving homicides are generally before the Court for a long period of time. All start in the Magistrates Court and after a series of hearings in that Court they will either progress to the County Court (as is generally the case for matters involving culpable driving and driving dangerously causing death or serious injury) or the Supreme Court (as is the case for murder, manslaughter and attempted murder).
People charged with these offences, as well as their supporters, require the assistance of an expert criminal lawyer to guide them through the process, make decisions along the way and where necessary engage the services of other experts to determine the merit or otherwise of an available defence. It is a long process; it is complicated and there are times when it almost seems as the system is designed to pressure an accused person to plead guilty. Sometimes that is the appropriate course, but in many instances a person accused of an offence involving homicide will have a defence available to them.
Homicide cases often run to trial. It is therefore critical that you have a lawyer who has trial experience. Being involved in a trial will often require a significant amount of preparation in the period leading up to it and once it starts, quick-thinking and ingenuity are both critical. At Stary Norton Halphen your lawyer will have spent a long time considering your case from every angle before your trial runs. They will have a plan and they will set about executing that plan.
Trials can be exhausting. They are not always won. That is why you need a lawyer who never gives up. In many instances when a homicide trial is lost, the convicted person will have grounds to appeal their decision. Where you have a basis upon which to appeal your decision, a determined and experienced criminal lawyer will be well aware of your appeal rights and will continue fighting for you even after you have been convicted. While an acquittal is always preferred, the justice system is imperfect and miscarriages of justice can and do happen. A lawyer who is able to fight for you at every stage of your case from beginning to end is essential in a homicide case.
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Advice from a competent and experienced criminal lawyer before you are interviewed can and often does have a meaningful impact on the outcome of your case and in some instances, is the difference between whether your matter proceeds to court or not.