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Bronx Murder Defense Lawyers

Understanding Murder: Definitions and Degrees

Murder isn’t just a simple definition of one person killing someone else. There are various degrees of murder and different components that need to be met to determine what kind of murder the defendant will be charged with. Criminal Law describes murder as the intentional killing of one human by another with intent. If the intent is not present at the time of the killing, then different charges could be filed. Malice aforethought is the one component that must be present for a murder charge to stand up in court. This means that the crime was premeditated and planned instead of an act that was committed in the heat of the moment or by accident.

The Legal Perspective on Murder

There are four states of mind that the court will look at when examining the murder charge. The person must have had:

  1. An intent to kill another,
  2. An intent to cause grievous bodily injury,
  3. A reckless indifference to human life, and
  4. An intent to commit a certain dangerous felony.

Murder vs. Manslaughter

When comparing murder to manslaughter, one must look at the intent. Manslaughter occurs when the defendant had no intent to kill the victim. It often happens in the heat of the moment. An example would be if the defendant comes home to find a spouse in bed with another. The defendant would be so outraged that one or both people are killed without thinking. There was no intent beforehand to kill the spouse or the person involved with the act. Another example would be if a person runs a red light and hits someone walking across the road, killing that person during the committal of the crime or causing serious injuries that result in the victim dying.

Degrees of Murder

Murder is often seen as a felony. It can also be considered a capital offense. Some states have the death penalty while other states will sentence the defendant to life in prison without parole. Criminal Law offers several different degrees of murder.

  • First-degree murder is the most serious. It involves the careful planning and plotting of killing one or more people. The defendant would have a clear mind when planning the crime and a thought process of how the killing will take place. The thought process can be brief, but it does need to be present in order for a first-degree murder charge to stand in court. A motive is another component that the court will look at when charging someone with first-degree murder.
  • Second-degree murder involves committing an act without a just cause that results in the death of another but without premeditation. When someone picks up a weapon and kills another person because the defendant is angry or upset over something, it could be considered second-degree murder because there wasn’t a thought-out plan.
  • Felony murder takes place when someone is killed while a felony is being committed. An example would be someone falling while a robbery is being committed. The defendant didn’t plan to kill the other person, but since the victim died during a felony that was taking place, then a murder charge could be filed.


Each state has various types of punishment for murder. States that have the death penalty will often sentence the defendant to this form of punishment. It could be a gas chamber or a lethal injection. There are other states that don’t have the death penalty and will sentence the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Second-degree murder is usually sentenced to life in prison as well. In the event that the murder takes place in the military, then the sentence is likely left to the court martial, or the defendant is given the death penalty or imprisonment for life. According to Crime Museum, there have been numerous types of punishment in the history of the United States when it comes to murder charges. At times, the punishment would be death by a firing squad. The goal of the punishment for murder is to protect society from someone who makes a plan to kill another human being.


One might think that there aren’t any defenses to committing a murder, but attorneys at Spodek Law Group can often examine the evidence and look to see if there was intent present or if there were other conditions present that would prevent a first-degree murder charge from being filed. One of the defenses is that the defendant is insane or that the defendant was insane at the time the crime was committed. This would involve a series of tests with the possibility of being sentenced to some type of mental ward, but the person wouldn’t be in jail. Another defense is that the murder was an accident. If the attorney can find that there wasn’t any kind of planning, then a first-degree charge usually won’t stand.

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