First Degree Murder vs. Second Degree Murder

Murder is a grave offense and the law is designed to provide justice to the victim’s family, keeping in mind the circumstances, and state of mind of the murderer. There are different degrees of murder, depending on the intention behind the killing, and the way the murder is committed.

Thus, this heinous offense is classified into first, second and third degrees of murder, the third type also referred to as manslaughter and homicide in some regions. The definition depends on the state and country in which the crime is committed. Usually first degree murder is an offense with intent, homicides that are planned, or that occur during the commission of another felony.

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First Degree Murder

Second Degree Murder

Definition intent to kill + premeditation and deliberation intentional killing; by extremely reckless conduct, intent to cause serious bodily harm, Deadly weapon doctrine
Mode Poisoning, bombing, assault with a weapon, torture, murder committed during a felony. Any weapon
Penalty Life imprisonment or death penalty 10 years to life in prison
Special Circumstances In some jurisdictions such as New York, murder is classified 1st degree if accompanied by special circumstances like multiple murders, torture, or the felony-murder rule. No special circumstances are necessary to classify a murder as 2nd degree murder. However, it is usually required to prove intent.

Contents: First Degree Murder vs Second Degree Murder

The scales of justice

edit Legal Definition

While manslaughter, or third degree murder, is a catch-all category for murders, there are more serious kinds of murder that are distinguished based upon factors such as intent, premeditation, whether the murder was committed as part of another crime like burglary or kidnapping, or whether there were any special circumstances such as murder of a law enforcement officer or multiple murders.

In general, 1st degree murder is grave murder planned and committed in a cruel way against one or more persons, under special circumstances. The special circumstances include accompaniment of other offenses such as, kidnapping, hijacking, robbery, with an intention of financial gain, assault on pregnant women or government officials on public duty, or involving extreme torture. This is considered more serious if the person committing the offence has committed such a crime before.

2nd degree murder, in general, is premeditated murder against spouse or relatives, or due to personal gain and interest, without the presence of special circumstances. It is considered slightly less grave than first degree murder. In some countries second degree murder is also defined as unplanned killing due to an accident.

edit Legal Definition of Murder in Pennsylvania and most states in the U.S.

edit Legal Definition of Murder in New York and several other states

Note that under this legal system, a "regular" premeditated murder, without such special circumstances, is not a first-degree murder; nor are murders by poison or "lying in wait" per se first-degree murders.

edit Penalty for 1st vs. 2nd degree murder

A person committing first degree murder is usually put in prison for at least 25 years or more without parole, depending on the laws of the state whereas someone committing second degree murder might be imprisoned for 10-25 years with or without parole. There may be exceptions to this depending on age and state of mind of the murderer and the circumstances surrounding the crime. Some of these are described below.

edit Exceptions

There are certain circumstances that might reduce the sentencing from first or second degree murder to manslaughter or homicide. Depression, post-traumatic stress, mental disorders and self defence are some of the pleas that can be used to reduce the penalty.

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Comments: First Degree Murder vs Second Degree Murder

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Anonymous comments (4)

February 16, 2014, 2:41pm

Todd Snyder please repeat that comment, but this time imagine Trayvon being your 17yr old daughter and Zimmerman being a black guy. Can you honestly say that your comments would be the EXACT SAME! IF you say yes, you're a liar!

— 66.✗.✗.58
1

May 22, 2014, 11:16pm

I wanna ask a question ....my friend had a accident on his motorcycle Hitting a lady on her motorcycle 2 N doing Ilegal turn she doesn't have 2 do at all....so my friend had the accident with her N she died N I was wondering what degree he get N how long he would get their in jail....because some people telling me like 16 years N his bail is 180,000

— 71.✗.✗.166
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June 10, 2013, 2:00pm

What is the difference between first-degee murder and Capital Murder

— 69.✗.✗.249
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January 11, 2011, 12:00am

This comparison between first- and second-degree murder is grossly inadequate, and incorrectly states the majority view in US jurisdictions in the bolded section. The majority view is that first-degree murder requires only deliberation and premeditation; special circumstances are considered at sentencing (also in whether to try and impose the death penalty). If you are interested in this subject, I suggest you go to a website that specializes in legal issues. The explanation of defenses of diminished capacity ("insanity," etc.) is so simplistic as to be completely misleading. These defenses are so complex in our legal system that even experts disagree about their application.

— 216.✗.✗.143
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