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Different Degrees of Murder

We’re all familiar with the terms – 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, manslaughter, etc. We hear them on our favorite TV shows and movies, and read these terms in books. But what do they mean? What’s the differences between them? Do they carry different legal consequences? In this week’s blog, we’ll cover all these questions and more as we address the different degrees of murder.

1st Degree

First, let’s summarize first degree murder (aka capital murder). This comes as the most serious charge among all the others. Among the different degrees of murder, it involves a deliberate choice, premeditation/planning, and malice. In other words, someone sat back, planned to kill someone, and did it without any just cause. It excludes sudden crimes of passion and vengeful acts. Crimes of passion don’t involve premeditation, and vengeful acts doesn’t involve malice because there was a reason for the killing. Consequences range from many years in prison to the death sentence.

2nd Degree

Second, for the second degree of murder, it involves malice and deliberation but no pre-planning. So, if in a fit of rage, someone shoots another person because they lost a poker game, that’d qualify as second degree murder. Like murder in the first degree, consequences typically entail many years in prison. However, the death penalty isn’t usually invoked. Additionally, penalties differ from state to state.

3rd Degree or Manslaughter

Third, among the different degrees of murder, the term “manslaughter” sounds the most serious, but it isn’t. Nevertheless, precisely defining and proving this law can prove difficult. For voluntary manslaughter, a person intends to harm another person, but not to kill them. Thus, if someone punches another person in the chest with the intent to cause some bodily harm, but then that person dies, that’d qualify as voluntary manslaughter. Further, for involuntary manslaughter, this can include negligence (like when a child dies under someone’s care), death during a car accident, and other reckless acts that cause someone’s death. Punishment can include prison for 10-16 months or longer, fines, and probation.

Degrees of Murder and Your Attorney

Finally, if you face charges and need an attorney. Contact the Offices of Mark Catanzaro, With over 30 years of experience in all sorts of cases, he has the knowledge and wisdom to defend your case. So don’t delay!


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