Murder is a difficult charge as it’s not just about the intentional killing of another person. While this is what most people think about when they think of murder, there are actually several degrees to consider, each with it’s own punishment options for the court to consider. The common degrees of murder include first and second. Some states will classify murder as justifiable homicide, capital murder or murder. The classification depends on whether the person intended to kill the victim or if it was done by accident. Punishments will increase with the higher degrees of murder, reaching to the possibility that someone is sentenced to death if they are convicted.
First-degree is the most serious murder offense. This would include the planning and malicious intent of killing someone. You would need to have a clear head when the crime is committed. Premeditation is also included in first-degree murder. This means that there was some kind of thought about the way to carry out the murder before the victim was seen. At times, you could have a plan in mind to kill someone while you’re with them, carrying out the plan shortly after talking to the victim. Either way, you had the clear thought in your mind that you wanted the other person dead and carried through with those thoughts. Malice is an important component in first-degree murder. The prosecutor has to be able to prove that you had an intentional thought of killing someone. An example would be finding out that someone you work with is planning on taking over the business. If you plan to go into the office and kill that person, then it’s with malicious intent. However, if you get into a fight and kill the person without planning to at the time, then there is no malicious intent involved.
Motive also is taken into consideration in most states. The court will look at the reason behind killing the other person. There are times when someone might kill another in self-defense or if the person feels threatened, such as if someone is trying to break into the home. Some motives carry a higher punishment than others, such as killing a police officer or killing someone based on their race or gender.
Second-degree murder is categorized by malice as well. The act is committed, but there is no premeditation involved. You would intentionally kill someone and know what you’re doing, but you wouldn’t have thought ahead about committing the act. An example would be a person who gets a gun out of a desk and shoots someone in the office. It’s considered second-degree murder because the person didn’t think before shooting.
Felony murder is another option when it comes to filing charges. This is when a murder is committed during the commission of a felony. The murder isn’t planned in advance. It’s a consequence of something else that happens. Most of these situations occur during a robbery. Someone might get scared during the robbery and fall, resulting in the person’s death. This would be considered a felony murder as the murder wasn’t really planned but happened while the robbery was taking place. Another example is if there are multiple people involved in a robbery and one of them kills someone in the business or home without the knowledge of the other people involved. Everyone would be charged with murder because the crime took place while the felony was being committed.
An attorney is the best option that you have when it comes to a murder charge. The attorney can look at the specifics and the reasons behind the murder and try to get the sentence reduced, working out a plea deal with the prosecution.