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Understanding the Different Degrees of Murder

Murder in the first degree. Murder in the second degree. Whether it is in movies or in the latest legal drama we’re binge-watching, we hear these words often. But how many of us actually understand what these terms mean? If asked, could we explain the difference between murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree?

Odds are that unless we are attorneys ourselves or are experts in criminal law, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the types of murder. After watching a crime documentary the other day, I decided I was tired of living in confusion and decided to research the various types of murder recognized under the law. If you’re like me and want to finally clarify a pesky issue that has been confusing you for years, take a look at what I found out below.

Keep in Mind…

When reading about these different definitions, remember that criminal law is decided on the state level. Because of this, certain definitions may vary from state to state. It is important to recognize that the definition of first-degree murder in your state may differ from the definition in another, but most states use comparable definitions. This post will not be talking about any specific state but will talk about criminal definitions in a general sense.

Murder in the First Degree

First thing’s first — murder in the first degree. Most states define first-degree murder as murder that is not only willful but premeditated too. Under this definition, the murder was committed after some degree of planning by the perpetrator.

Murder in the Second Degree

Murder in the second degree gets a bit more complicated. States usually define second-degree murder as murder that was not meditated, resulting from an assault in which death of the victim was a possibility. While the murder was not planned out, the murderer still had intent and understood this consequences of his or her actions.

There are two other definitions that need to be discussed: voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter

In situations of voluntary manslaughter, the perpetrator acted in the heat of passion. The heat of passion is a state in which a normal, reasonable person becomes disturbed enough to lost control of their actions — resulting in the death of their victim.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a death is a result of someone else’s criminal negligence. It is common for an individual to be charged with involuntary manslaughter after killing someone after driving under the influence, for example.

If you are facing a murder charge, especially a first-degree murder charge, you should contact an experienced attorney, like Bruno Law Offices, immediately. A first-degree murder charge is the most serious charge one can face in the criminal courts, and it is important that you have adequate representation. If convicted of first-degree murder, you could be facing capital punishment (the death penalty) or even life in prison without parole. Other degree charges carry stiff punishments as well.

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