Manslaughter vs. Murder: What’s the Difference?

When a person’s actions cause someone else’s death, they may face criminal charges if there is enough evidence to indict. Homicide is the general legal term that refers to the killing of one human being by another. Manslaughter and murder are two classifications of homicide, distinguishable by whether the crime was committed with malice aforethought. If the person planned the act before committing it, they engaged in malice aforethought and can face murder charges. Without premeditation, it is considered manslaughter.

The seriousness of homicide offenses

Homicide is one of the most serious criminal offenses with which a person can be charged. New Mexico laws classifies homicide into the following types:

  • First-degree murder
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Second-degree murder
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Voluntary manslaughter

Someone who commits homicide may not face charges under certain circumstances. For instance, if a person loses control of their vehicle on an icy roadway and hits and kills a pedestrian, their actions may not be ruled a homicide. The key is determining whether the person was engaging in a legal activity and taking appropriate precautions at the time the homicide occurred. Even if someone is charged with vehicular homicide in this case, a judge or jury ultimately would decide if their actions rose to the level of homicide.  

According to New Mexico Statute Section 30-2-1, persons convicted of homicide face:

  • Up to nine years in prison for a second-degree felony.
  • Up to 18 years in prison for a first-degree felony.
  • Up to life imprisonment for a capital felony.  

Some states have the death penalty as an option for homicide. New Mexico abolished capital punishment in 2009. It was replaced with life imprisonment and life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Manslaughter in New Mexico

New Mexico statutes define manslaughter as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” With the absence of deliberateness, the crime is considered less serious than murder. Two classifications of manslaughter exist in the state:

Involuntary manslaughter is defined in two ways:

  • A killing that happened during the commission of an unlawful act not classified as a felony under the law. For example, a person who is having an argument with another person and pushes them during the altercation. The victim falls and hits their head and later dies at the hospital. This would be involuntary manslaughter.
  • A killing that happened when someone is engaged in a legal but careless act. An example is a drug abuser who shares their needle with someone else and that person overdoses.

Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that happens during the heat of the moment. If two men get into an argument that escalates into a physical fight that causes the death of one of them, the other can face voluntary manslaughter charges. A third-degree felony, it is punishable by up to six years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Murder in New Mexico

Murder in New Mexico is the unlawful killing of one human being by another without lawful justification. There are two types of murder in the state.

First-degree murder is the most serious classification. To be charged with first-degree murder, a person must:

  • Kill someone through a deliberate, premeditated, and willful act.
  • Kill someone in the commission of a felony (robbing a bank, breaking and entering, etc.).
  • Kill someone while engaged in an act that exhibits reckless disregard for human life.

Defendants convicted of first-degree murder have committed a capital offense. Punishment includes life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Second-degree murder is the go-to charge for intentional killings that do not rise to the level of first-degree murder by prosecutorial standards. They also do not fit within the legal definition of voluntary manslaughter. Engaging in behavior a person knows is likely to cause another person’s death or serious bodily harm fits into this category. For example, a person who fires a gun into a crowd could face second-degree murder charges.

Defendants convicted of second-degree murder receive sentencing for a second-degree felony, which includes up to 15 years in prison and a $12,500 fine.

Contact an experienced Albuquerque criminal defense attorney

Persons facing homicide charges of any degree can count on the legal expertise of Marcus Cameron. Using a public defender may be free but it may not get defendants the adequate representation they deserve. Cameron and Russell have an excellent reputation for ensuring the rights of their clients. Contact Marcus today to schedule your free consultation.

I’ve been charged with harassment. Now what?

Knowingly annoying, alarming, or terrorizing another person regularly in a way that serves no lawful purpose is considered harassment under New Mexico law. Some people know exactly what they are doing when they act this way toward another person. It is their intent to upset the other individual or make them feel afraid. Other times, people may engage in harassment and not realize their actions rise to the level of criminal conduct until a police officer shows up on their doorsteps or they receive a summons in the mail.

What are the 3 types of harassment?

Harassment is classified into three categories. New Mexico law does not consider one type to be more serious than another. Harassing another person in any of these ways can earn you a visit from local law enforcement. Here are the three forms of harassment:

  • Verbal or written harassment is one of the most common forms. Some of these communications may fall within the legal definition of sexual harassment, especially if they are made while on the job. Emails with offensive jokes or graphic descriptions about race or religion and making derogatory comments about characteristics of individuals also is harassment. Repeated texts or phone calls demanding dates or sexual favors also fall into this category. Verbal or written threats to do bodily harm to someone also is harassment.  
  • Physical harassment can be more difficult to recognize since offenders engage in their behavior subtly as not to draw the attention of others. Lewd hand gestures, playing music with suggestive lyrics, unwanted touching, and following or standing too close to another person on purpose all fall into physical harassment territory. Physical harassment is not always sexual in nature. Hitting, pushing, and other aggressive behavior is classified as physical harassment regardless of the motive behind it.
  • Visual harassment can be even mor pervasive than physical harassment. It may include lewd or threatening hand gestures, showing someone pictures of a sexual or violent nature, or drawing derogatory or violent images.

When can you be charged with harassment?

Threatening physically harm another person or do damage to their property is enough to get a person investigated for harassment. If the victim has evidence that supports their harassment claim, the police may charge you. In New Mexico, harassment is a misdemeanor. Under some circumstances, harassment can be elevated to the level of a felony.

Sometimes offenders are not aware they have been charged with harassment until they receive a summons in the mail notifying them of the charges and a subsequent court date.

Are stalking and harassment the same thing?

No. In fact, the New Mexico legislature adopted a Harassment and Stalking Act (30-3A-2) in 2009 that differentiates between harassment and stalking. It is one of the few states that puts criminal harassment and stalking laws under separate statutes and penalties. Under the law, stalking is defined as knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct that is directed at a specific person and places them in reasonable fear of bodily harm, confinement, death, or sexual assault. Stalking is a misdemeanor for a first offense. Subsequent offenses or convictions are fourth degree felonies.

Harassment involves engaging in a pattern of conduct that annoys, alarms, or terrorizes another person without legal justification. To be considered harassment, the perpetrators actions must rise to the level of causing serious emotional distress to the victim.

It is quite possible to be charged with both harassment and stalking, depending on the nature of the allegations made against you.

Penalties for harassment convictions

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor count of harassment in New Mexico, you can face up to six months to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. When charged as a fourth-degree felony, harassment convictions carry the possibility of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Stiffer sentences are possible for perpetrators with criminal histories or a known pattern of engaging in harassing or stalking behaviors. Courts have the discretion of deferring prison sentences in favor of probation. A good criminal attorney can negotiate a plea agreement that includes probation instead of jail time.  

Respond quickly to harassment charges

Harassment is a serious crime. Not only can being charged with harassment impact a person legally, but it also can harm their personal and professional reputation. If you have been charged with harassment or even questioned by authorities about accusations of harassment, you should contact an attorney skilled in criminal law who can review your rights and responsibilities with you.

How to Spot Check Fraud

Schemes designed to defraud innocent people have become more elaborate in recent years. Technology advancements have made it easier for scammers to pretend to be from legitimate organizations – including government agencies – to win over the trust of consumers. Even when that number on your caller ID appears to be from the IRS, chances are, a con artist used technology to spoof the number and is eagerly waiting on the other end of the line to trick you out of your hard-earned money.

One of the oldest scams in the books is check fraud. They take many forms but check fraud schemes all have one goal in mind: to dupe unsuspecting victims into handing over their financial resources. The Federal Trade Commission received 2.2 million fraud reports from consumers in 2020. These consumers were tricked into giving up sensitive information like bank account numbers and passwords or cashing fake checks.

Trusting your gut is one of the best tools consumers have in protecting themselves against check fraud schemes. As a rule, if it seems too good to be true it probably is too good to be true. Here are some tips for spitting check fraud schemes before you fall victim to them, and what to do if you discover it is too late and you already were swindled.

Examples of common check fraud schemes

One of the most common check fraud schemes currently making the rounds involves advance payment or overpayment for products and services. A popular target for these scammers is businesses that sell products or services online. Let’s take an example of a social media consultant who receives a request for assistance from a prospective client. The person soliciting the request appears legitimate. They agree to sign a contract and begin work.

Since most consultants require an upfront deposit before work begins, the scammer offers to send it via check or money order overnight. The next day, the consultant receives a check for their services – only it is for double (or triple) the amount agreed upon with the client. When the consultant attempts to correct the mistake, the client asks them to go ahead and cash the check and just send them back a check for the difference, so they do not have to waste time and spend more money cutting you another check and paying to overnight it again.

Some people fall for this hook, line, and sinker. The check they were overnighted is fake. When they try to cash it, it will bounce. By then, it is probably too late since they already returned the “overpayment” to the customer.

Unsolicited check fraud is another version of this same scheme. You receive a check in the mail you were not expecting. It may resemble a rebate check or refund for overpayment. Signing a check like this could legally bind you to a contract with whoever sent the check. Scammers use this tactic to get unsuspecting consumers to authorize loans and memberships.

Check-cashing schemes are another form of check fraud. Scammers approach people and ask them to cash a check for them. They offer to sign it over to you, have you deposit it into your account, and then write them a check for the same amount from your account to them. The claim with this type of con is the person needs to cash the check but does not have an account at the bank.

Why do check fraud scams work?

There are several reasons why people fall victim to check fraud scams. One of the most common is thinking you are doing a kind deed for another person. This is how fraudsters pull off check-cashing schemes. They prey on the goodwill of others.

Another reason check fraud scams work is that businesses are eager to attract new customers. Small businesses are favorite targets of these kinds of scammers because many are looking to grow their brands and are willing to work with new people. Waving large checks in front of business owners who may be struggling to survive is tempting.

When check fraud schemers send cashier’s checks, victims are unlikely to question the validity. After all, the supposed benefit of cashier’s checks is they are guaranteed by a bank. Right? Wrong. Con artists have become quite skilled at imitating real cashier’s checks. They may look legitimate, but they are fake. It is a hard lesson victims learn when they try to cash it and hold the financial institution that supposedly issued it accountable when it ultimately bounces.

An example of an MICR line on a check.

How to detect a fake check

Fake checks are difficult to spot. Banks and other financial institutions process them regularly without spotting them. Scammers go to great lengths to pull off their heists. They often use the names and addresses of legitimate businesses and people – even other financial institutions – to trick people. In some instances, they may be real checks that belong to accounts of identity theft victims. It can, unfortunately, take banks and other financial institutions weeks to sort out check fraud. The money may immediately show as available in your bank account, but once financial institutions realize it is fake, they can withdraw it from your account, leaving you holding the bag.

There are some features on fake checks that can help give them away:

  • Bank addresses and logos. All legitimate financial institutions have street addresses. If the check you are holding has a P.O. box number, that is a huge red flag. If you are unsure, contact the supposed issuing bank to verify the information on the check is legitimate. Bank logos can be faked on checks, but when they are, they often appear faded or blurry from being copied from an online source.
  • Edges. Most legitimate checks have at least one perforated (rough) edge. When all edges of the check are smooth, that is a tell-tale sign it was printed from a home computer.
  • Check number. If the check is missing a number in the top right-hand corner, it is fake. Another sign of illegitimacy is if the number appearing in the top right-hand corner does not match the MICR line. The MICR line is the string of numbers across the bottom of the check. The last four digits should match the number at the top of the check.
  • Check amount. Checks that are less than $5,000 are popular among thieves because federal rules require deposits under that amount to be available within five days to the person depositing the check.
  • Routing numbers. At the bottom of every check in the MICR line is the issuing bank’s routing number. Legitimate routing numbers have nine digits. You can verify routing numbers on the Federal Reserve Financial Services website.

How to report a fake check

If you suspect you received a fake check or someone is trying to get you to cash a check you believe to be false, immediately contact your local authorities. You also can report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. If the check was sent via the U.S. Postal Service, inform the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by calling 800-275-8777 or notify them online. Lastly, if the scammer contacted you online, file a complaint at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Check fraud is a serious crime. If you face charges for check fraud, reach out to the team at Cameron and Russell to schedule a free consultation.

Benefits of a Free Case Evaluation

Whether you are injured on the job, or you face criminal charges, you need an experienced and compassionate attorney to guide you through your case. Many law offices that specialize in personal injury law and criminal defense offer free case evaluations. What is included in one of these sessions? How should you prepare to get the most benefit from your meeting? Attorneys who provide comprehensive case evaluations cover your case from top to bottom so they – and you – know what to expect moving forward.

What is a free case evaluation?

A free case evaluation provides you with the opportunity to discuss your case with a legal representative. It also is a way for you and the attorney to get to know one another. When an attorney says thet offer a free case evaluation or client consultation, you can expect them to sit down with you, listen to your problem, and provide some initial thoughts about the case. This is performed at no charge to you and with no obligation to move forward with the attorney if you decide for any reason that he or she is not a good fit.

Why do attorneys provide free consultations?

It is beneficial for the attorney and the client to have a free consultation. Most attorneys offer free consultations because they genuinely care about helping people. They have a passion for pursuing tough cases to ensure your rights are protected. When conducted thoroughly, a free case evaluation gathers just enough information to determine whether you have enough evidence to prove your claims or defend against criminal charges.

For prospective clients, it gives them a chance to decide if the attorney is competent. Civil and criminal attorneys must be effective communicators to win settlements and court cases. Listening is an integral part of communicating. You can determine whether an attorney is a good listener by how many questions they ask about your case and how they respond to your questions about their services.

What to bring to your free case evaluation

The kind of information you must supply depends on whether you are pursuing litigation or are defending against charges.

For personal injury cases, clients should bring:

  • Police reports (if they exist) about the accident where the injury was sustained.
  • Details about who else was involved in the accident.
  • A list of witnesses to the accident.
  • Photos of the accident scene (if available).
  • Medical reports of any treatment for your injuries or ongoing therapy for recovery.
  • Information about which insurance companies are involved in the case.
  • A list of all expenses associated with the injury (medical, lost wages), plus supporting receipts or other documentation.
  • Explanation of how you think the accident occurred.

For criminal defense cases, clients should bring:

  • All documentation from the police, jail, or any judge that has handled your case. This can include court summons, citations, jail release paperwork, search warrant affidavits, vehicle impound sheets, and toxicology reports.
  • A list of witnesses willing to testify on your behalf.
  • Information about your personal and professional background.
  • Any previous misdemeanor or felony complaints against you.
  • Details about any future court date already scheduled.

It is not necessary to bring witnesses for your case to the free consultation. Should your attorney decide to move forward with your case, they can contact the witnesses on your list and arrange to take their depositions.

What to expect at your case evaluation

When you schedule a free case evaluation with Cameron & Russell, you can expect a face-to-face meeting with criminal defense expert Marcus Cameron. He has an extensive criminal law background and has represented clients in all types of felonies and other criminal charges.  

Marcus will sit down with you to discuss the merits of your case. You can expect him to ask a lot of questions and review all supporting documentation that you bring along. After a review of the facts and listening to your side of the story, he will present information about how he can help with your case.

Your attorney should not be the only one asking questions during the free case evaluation. Prepare a list of your questions and have them ready to ask. It is critical you tell your attorney the truth about your circumstances. They cannot help you if they do not have all the facts.

What to expect after the consultation

Clients can think about whether they wish to hire an attorney following the free consultation. Never allow an attorney to pressure you on the spot about retaining them for your case. Hiring an attorney is a financial commitment. Reputable attorneys provide prospective clients with the time and space needed to consider their next moves. If you decide to move forward with the attorney, you must sign an agreement that outlines the services provided and the fees associated with those services. Many attorneys work on retainer, requiring an up-front fee to get started on your case. Attorneys who use retainers will deduct their fees from the retainer balance, only invoicing you for more once the retainer is spent. Be sure you understand all the terms and conditions, plus legal obligations, before signing an agreement to work with an attorney.

Get the help you need

Free consultations ensure that every person has equal access to representation for their legal needs. Whether you are pursuing fair compensation for a personal injury, or require defending against a DUI charge, we can help. Contact us today to schedule your obligation-free case evaluation.

Criminal Defense Attorney Judge's Gavel

Top 6 Tips for Finding the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Albuquerque New Mexico

Finding the best criminal defense lawyer is a must when you are facing a criminal charge in Albuquerque. Not all criminal defense attorneys have the same level of experience and reputation. Choosing the right criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between the best defense possible and someone who just shows up in the courtroom to stand next to you.

Being charged with a criminal offense is scary. Rushing to find legal representation is never the right approach, especially if you are facing a serious criminal charge like possession of a controlled substance or homicide. You want to find a criminal defense attorney who knows criminal defense law inside and out and can represent you in the best possible light during all legal proceedings. Choosing a criminal defense attorney should never be an afterthought. It is without a doubt the most important step you can take in defending yourself against any criminal charge.

While finding the best fit can seem daunting, following these six steps will help you find the best criminal defense lawyer to represent you in Albuquerque or anywhere else in New Mexico.

  1. Choose a criminal defense lawyer that is responsive
    When you are facing a criminal charge, the last thing you need is an attorney who is missing in action. Time is of the essence when mounting a defense. Lawyers who drag their feet risk losing your case. You need a criminal defense lawyer who is able and willing to get right to work on your case. When you or someone else contacts an attorney on your behalf, that attorney should respond quickly. It is not unreasonable to expect an initial consultation with the attorney and his or her legal team within 24 hours. First impressions mean a lot. A criminal defense attorney that is quick to respond to your initial inquiry will likely be responsive for the duration of your case.
  2. Choose a criminal defense lawyer that is experienced
    The best criminal defense attorneys know their way in and around the local courts. Local connections and relationships can make a difference when fighting a criminal charge. Having a familiarity with local judges and prosecutors increases your criminal defense attorney’s ability to navigate your case successfully. They will use that knowledge to help create a winning strategy for your case. In addition to making sure your criminal defense attorney knows the ins and outs of the Albuquerque legal scene, they must specialize in criminal law. While it is true that all lawyers receive some training in criminal law during law school, you want to hire an attorney who exclusively practices criminal law. Attorneys who specialize in criminal law are the most up-to-date on practices and procedures and more capable of mounting a solid defense on your behalf. 
  3. Choose a criminal defense lawyer who is reputable
    When you have been arrested or charged with a criminal offense, there is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to find a lawyer quickly. This is a mistake that can come back to haunt you later. Taking your time to find a reputable criminal defense attorney is one of the most important strategies of your defense. Be sure to check the State Bar of New Mexico when choosing your attorney. The state bar has a feature for helping you locate criminal defense attorneys near you. Their website also allows consumers to research whether an attorney has any formal discipline on their record or if they have ever lost their license to practice. When you have an attorney in mind, ask him or her for at least three solid references.  Another solid tactic is to seek recommendations from lawyers who do not practice criminal defense. Chances are, if you know an attorney who practices in any aspect of the law, they can recommend a colleague they consider reputable and dependable who can handle your criminal case. Looking at online review sites also can provide a glimpse into the experience other clients have had with an attorney you are considering.
  4. Choose a criminal defense lawyer who is transparent
    The last thing you need when you are facing a criminal charge is to have an attorney who dodges your questions. This includes clarity on their fee structure and what you can expect to pay upfront and at the conclusion of your case. Some criminal lawyers require a retainer, which is a fee that clients must pay in advance of the attorney beginning any work on the case. An attorney who works on retainer will deduct all fees and expenses for working on your case from the balance of the retainer first. If there is any amount of the retainer left over after your case is concluded, an attorney is required to return the balance to you.
  5. Choose a criminal defense lawyer with a winning attitude
    Confidence and enthusiasm go a long way in successfully defending a client against criminal charges. The willingness to conduct a thorough investigation is paramount to a solid criminal defense. You want an attorney who does their homework before encouraging a client to accept a plea bargain when that may not be in their best interest. Having confidence in the courtroom also is important. Criminal court proceedings can move quickly. You need an attorney who is quick on his or her feet and able to respond to any unexpected situation that may arise during court proceedings. An attorney with a winning attitude who is well-spoken is a solid asset to any criminal defense.
  6. Choose a criminal defense lawyer who respects your input
    When it comes right down to it, you are the one facing the consequences of a criminal charge. That means you need to find a criminal defense attorney who not only seeks your input on your defense but who also is willing to allow you some control over specific methods of mounting your defense. This does not mean you should try to direct every part of your defense. After all, you are not a criminal defense attorney. What it does mean is you should have the final say on some of the biggest decisions, like whether you should accept a plea deal or go to trial. An attorney who fails to take your wishes into account is not a good criminal defense lawyer.

How do I find the best criminal defense attorney near me?

Marcus Cameron is one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Albuquerque. He has an impressive record. Marcus has participated in over 2,500 administrative and legal hearings. He has defended clients in 47 criminal cases, eight of which were for first-degree murder charges. One of his cases set precedent in the State of New Mexico.

Before becoming a criminal defense attorney, Marcus Cameron served as a Judge Advocate General with the U.S. Army for eight years. He also has worked as a public defender for two years handling felonies, homicides, and violent crimes cases.  His experience on both sides of the criminal law fence makes him an asset to anyone facing a criminal charge.

Facing a criminal charge can be difficult and concerning. Arm yourself with the best criminal defense attorney in New Mexico. Call Marcus Cameron and his legal team at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.

Call Cameron & Russell for a Free Case Evaluation

Bill Russell and Marcus Cameron are the faces behind Cameron & Russell. We go the extra mile for our clients to pursue personal injury claims and provide criminal defense. We approach every case with a fresh eye to detail and the determination to represent our clients to the fullest extent the law allows. We passionately defend clients facing criminal charges, and relentlessly seek out fair compensation for personal injury claims. No matter your situation, we promise to tirelessly represent your legal needs. 

Contact Us

  • 500 Marquette Ave NW Suite 1200
    Albuquerque, NM 87102

  • P: 505-218-7844
    505-268-5304
    F: 505-672-5128

Business Hours

Office:
Monday – Friday: 9am to 6pm

The law offices of Cameron and Russell, LLC © 2020 - All rights reserved. 

We are a premier personal injury law firm located in Albuquerque New Mexico,
focused on helping people get through tragedy.

Website Design and development by BK Design Solutions