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First-degree murder charges carry hefty consequences in Tennessee. If you face these, the lightest sentence you will likely receive – if found guilty – is life in prison with the chance of parole. Yet, depending on the nature of the crime, you could lose out on parole or face the death penalty. Because these charges are so severe, you may wonder if you can reduce them. Depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime, you might be able to.

Your best defense

In Tennessee, first-degree murder refers to premeditated killings, as well as those committed during a violent felony. Murders accompanied by aggravating factors can face especially serious charges. These factors account for whether the victim was a child, elderly or an elected or law enforcement official. They also consider whether the murder involved a hitman, was heinous or was part of a mass killing.

Yet, even if aggravating factors played a part in the crime, you still may have defenses against a stiff sentence. A judge may lessen your sentence if:

  • You acted in self-defense or defense of others.
  • You acted under duress or extreme disturbance.
  • You had a moral justification for your actions.
  • You had no prior criminal history.
  • You were an accomplice rather than the primary actor.

Making a deal

While a judge may give you a more lenient sentence based on the case’s circumstances, you will likely have to enter a plea bargain to receive one. If you do, you will accept a guilty plea in exchange for lesser charges. Yet, these will still likely be for a violent felony, such as second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. But you could further reduce your charges if the murder was an act of defense. This argument only applies if the victim posed a threat to you or others.

You will face serious consequences if you receive first-degree murder charges. But understanding your defenses can help you lessen their impact. An attorney with criminal defense experience can help you stand up for yourself.