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Spokane Lawyer for Murder Cases

A charge of intentional murder represents the most serious allegation a person can face under Washington law. Steve Graham has been handling some of the highest profile murder cases for 20 years.Murder charge His cases have repeatedly been featured in the National Enquirer and he has been interviewed as an expert to comment on other cases by such publications as The Seattle Times and Seattle Weekly. He has appeared on Snapped, and Steve Graham has been rated a Top 5 criminal defense lawyers by Spokane-Living magazine. Mr. Graham has done over 200 jury trials from Seattle to Spokane and most of the smaller jurisdictions in between. He is licensed in the federal courts for both the Western and Eastern District of Washington.

First Degree Murder

Murder in the First Degree is a class A felony under Washington law and brings a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 dollar fine. First Degree Murder is most often thought of as an intentional killing done with premeditation. However, premeditation isn't the only way in which this offense is defined. Other ways the charge arises is with an allegation that: 1) The death resulted from extreme indifference on the defendant's part, or 2) The death occurred when defendant was committing the crime of robbery, rape, burglary, arson, kidnapping. The standard range sentence for a person convicted of Murder in the First Degree is 20 to 30 years in prison, but this does not include possible aggravating factors or sentencing enhancements.

Aggravated First Degree Murder

A charge of Murder in the First Degree becomes "aggravated" when there are certain factors alleged. The list of aggravators include: 1) That the victim was a police officer or other official performing his or her duties at the time, 2) That the victim was a newspaper reporter covering the actions of the defendant, 3) That the defendant was imprisoned or incarcerated on a felony at the time of the killing or was on leave, 4) That the defendant acted pursuant to a "murder for hire" agreement, 5) That the defendant acted as part of a gang initiation, 6) That the murder occurred as part of a drive-by shooting, 7) That the victim was a judge, juror, witness, or attorney exercising his or her duties, 8) That the defendant killed to conceal the commission of another crime, 9) That two or more people were killed as part of a scheme, 10) That the murder took place in the course of the commission of another serious felony, 11) That at the time of the death, the victim had a restraining order against the defendant, or 12) That the offense was a crime of domestic violence, and there was a past history of abuse. A conviction for Aggravate First Degree Murder brings a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The death penalty has been abolished in Washington State since October of 2018.

Second Degree Murder

Murder in the Second Degree is committed when a person intentionally kills, but does so without any premeditation. This is often a somewhat fine line under the law. Under the law, "premeditation" is defined as "thought over beforehand" and must involve more than just "a moment in point of time."Second Degree Murder is also when a person commits a felony, and during the course of the felony, a death occurs. This is often referred to as "felony murder." For a charge of felony murder, the prosecutor need not prove that the killing was intentional. An example of a felony murder might be when a person is killed in a traffic accident when a suspect is fleeing from the police, or when a person dies accidentally during the course of a robbery. Under Washington law, it doesn’t matter whether the death was intentional or accidental - a defendant is liable for it either way.


Manslaughter in the First Degree is defined as recklessly killing another person. The offense can also be committed by causing the death of an unborn child when injury is inflicted upon the mother. Manslaughter in the Second Degree is defined as killing another person with criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is defined as failing to be aware of a substantial risk that a death may occur and this amounts to a "gross deviation" from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised. Recklessness is the same standard except that the defendant knew of that same risk and took the risk anyway. The offense of Manslaughter First Degree brings a standard range sentence of 78 to 102 months in the State penitentiary for a person with no criminal history. Manslaughter in the Second degree brings a standard range sentence of 21 to 27 months in prison. Some times in murder trials, the jury is given the option of considering the lesser charge of manslaughter. In other words, if someone is accused of intentional murder, the jury may conclude that the killing was done recklessly rather than intentionally, and the result would be a manslaughter conviction rather than a murder conviction.

For information on other homicide related charges see our page on vehicular homicide / watercraft homicide.

Free Consultation

If you want to discuss your case with me,please call. We do free consultations on criminal matters in eastern Washington. You will receive my honest opinion and I will listen to you and answer your questions.