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What is Second Degree Murder?

what is second degree murder?

In our series on the different degrees of murder, we’ve already covered first degree murder. So, today we’ll be answering, “What is second degree murder?” This one might be the one the average person knows littlest about. Yet, it’s important to understand. Leading up to any murder trial, the prosecutor might attempt to increase the original charges from one degree to another. Therefore, anyone involved in a murder trial needs to comprehend the differences.

What is Second Degree Murder in Basic Terms?

First, let’s define the phrase in simple terms. To do so, we’ll contrast it with first degree murder. In last week’s blog, we said that first degree murder involves committing a murder in such a way that implicated deliberate choice, premeditation, and malice. In other words, the person consciously chose to commit murder, planned how they’d do it, and did it for malicious reasons. With that in mind, second degree murder entails the following:

  • Intent to kill, but without premeditation – the perpetrator doesn’t make a plan to kill someone, they just do it.
  • Intent only to cause bodily harm, but not to kill – the perpetrator only intended to hurt the victim, but instead killed them.
  • Extreme indifference to human life – the perpetrator intends to harm another person and shows extreme indifference as to whether or not their actions could kill that person.

Felony Murder

Second, there’s another category which can lead to second degree murder charges called “felony murder.” This means someone is murdered while a crime is being committed. So, for example, if Kevin and Fred attempt to rob a bank and Kevin kills the bank clerk, Fred could be charged with second degree murder because of his involvement in the robbery.

What is Second Degree Murder and Its Relevance to a Case?

Third, how could this be relevant in a case? In any criminal trial, mens rea and culpability must be proven. The prosecution must prove that the perpetrator knew what they were doing and chose to do it. Now, third degree murder is a completely accidental incident. However, if the prosecutor believes they can demonstrate mens rea and culpability, they will pursue a second degree murder charge instead. This will come with harsher penalties, including 15 years to life in prison.

Contact Mark Catanzaro for More!

Finally, since we’ve answered, “what is second degree murder,” what can you do about it? Well, if you face criminal charges, contact attorney Mark Catanzaro! He has the wisdom and experience to defend your case.


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