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The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Recently, Beau Rothwell of St. Louis County was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2019 killing of his pregnant wife Jennifer. Andrea McNairy, the managing attorney for Brown & Crouppen, explains the process of charging and sentencing murder suspects in this week’s Legal Lens with FOX 2’s Vic Faust.

First, it’s important to distinguish the difference between murder in the first and second degrees, manslaughter, and armed criminal action.

“You hear in the news all the time, even as recently as today, being charged with first-degree, second-degree, voluntary manslaughter, or armed criminal action,” said McNairy. “First-degree murder is when someone knowingly causes the death of somebody else with premeditation, commonly known as premeditated murder. Second-degree does not require premeditation. It only requires you to knowingly cause the death of another or act with the purpose of seriously injuring another purposely injuring someone or during the commission of a felony, commonly known as felony murder.”

McNairy explained that voluntary manslaughter is when someone commits second-degree murder, but they did so with sudden passion or engagement arising from a circumstance. Oftentimes, people who are involved in fights are similar altercations are charged with that.

“And finally, armed criminal action is any crime that basically uses a weapon,” said McNairy. “So if you use a gun or knife you would be culpable of armed criminal action. And it’s important to note that if you are charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or voluntary manslaughter, you could also be charged with armed criminal action and also serve that in addition to the main criminal offense.”

In the Beau Rothwell case, he and his attorney thought his sentence should be lessened. McNairy explained that certain murder charges carry different sentences.

“If the defendant can prove lack of deliberation or premeditation or even lack of intent, they can get a reduced sentence,” said McNairy. “So for instance, first-degree murder carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Second-degree murder, 10 to 30 years, and armed criminal action is based on the number of convictions you have for that particular crime. So, it’s anywhere from three years to 10 years in addition to the underlying crime. Finally, voluntary manslaughter is only five to 15 years. So again, they can get a reduced sentence if they can negate that intent.”

You catch the “Legal Lens” on FOX 2 every Wednesday at 6 p.m.