What do the different degrees of murder mean?


I often hear terms like "third degree murder", but I've never actually stopped to figure out what that means.

First degree murder

This is actually the most serious charge! It involves deliberate choice and planning, malice, and no just cause. This means that it doesn't include crimes of passion (these aren't pre-planned) or revenge (there was a reason).

This also includes felony murder, which is when someone is murdered by someone intentionally committing another serious felony. For example, a getaway driver to a bank robbery during which someone was murdered can be charged with felony murder, since they assisted with the felony that lead to the person's death.

Second degree murder

This involves malice and deliberation but does not involve planning. For example, someone getting mad in the moment and shooting someone else would fit into this category.

Third degree murder

This usually falls under two categories:

  • voluntary manslaughter, where the person intends to harm the other person, but unintentionally killed them.
  • involuntary manslaughter, where someone's negligence or reckless acts led to someone else's death.

This page is referenced in: Random Bits