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What Are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-Degree Murders? (Ultimate Guide)

What Are 1st 2nd and 3rd Degree Murders - What Is First Degree Murder Second Degree Murder Third Degree Murder - Degrees Of Murder

What are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murders?

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • the differences between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murders
  • examples of each type of murders
  • penalties and charges for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murders
  • how the states will charge you with murder based on the situation
  • which type of murder lands you with the death penalty or life in prison

… and much more.

Let’s dig in.

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What Are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-Degree Murders?

First-degree murders are always:

  • premeditated murders
  • carried out with the intent to kill
  • the most serious homicide crime

Second-degree murders are:

  • carried out with the intent to kill
  • not premeditated murders

Third-degree murders are:

  • the lowest level of severity in homicide crimes
  • without the intent to kill
  • not premeditated murders

Fill out the form on this page to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney.

Our criminal defense attorneys are experienced in protecting your rights with murder charges.

This way, you don’t needlessly lose decades of your life to prison.

And risk never seeing your family and loved ones again.

Read More: How Many Murders Go Unsolved

What Is A 1st Degree Murder?

First-degree murder is the most severe and harshest form of murder.

First-degree murders are premeditated murders carried out with intent.

The person committing a first-degree murder intended to:

  • cause harm
  • kill the victim

The two types of first-degree murder are:

  • premeditated murder
  • felony murder

The courts look for evidence that the defendant formed the intent to kill before killing.

The defendant had to think about and plan to kill for a period of time.

What determines premeditation and deliberation to kill are:

  • lack of provocation from the victim
  • actions and words of the defendant surrounding the murder
  • threats from the defendant before the murder
  • the victim and defendant’s history with each other
  • evidence of brutality
  • the nature and number of wounds

First-Degree Murder Definition

First-degree murder is the intentional killing of another person.

It’s by someone who has acted willfully, deliberately, and with planning.

Requirements For First-Degree Murder

There are three requirements for murder to get classified as first-degree murder.

These three requirements are:

Premeditation is the core requirement for first-degree murders.

This means that the murder got planned ahead of time.

The courts don’t take mental disorders into consideration for this.

Common examples of premeditation are:

  • planning the murder out
  • buying a murder weapon
  • waiting for someone to come home

Malice aforethought means the murder got committed with a disregard for human life.

And with clear intent to kill the victim.

Intent to kill means that the defendant intended to kill the victim.

Intent can get used for felony murders, too. You may have intended to commit:

  • robbery
  • arson
  • kidnapping
  • sexual assault

But you may not have intended to kill someone or for someone to get killed.

But, since you intended the criminal act, it’s still intended to kill.

This is because the criminal act that you intended to do led to the murder.

Examples Of 1st Degree Murder

There are three types of murders that get classified as first-degree murder.

These three types of murders are:

  • premeditated murders
  • felony murders
  • murder by specific means

Premeditated murders are ones where the defendant planned out the murder.

The murder happened with the intent to kill the other person.

And there was a willful and strong desire to end the other person’s life.

Felony murders occur as a result of you committing another felony.

Let’s say that you are robbing someone’s home while they are out of town.

During the robbery, someone shows up at the house and kills one of your partners.

You did not commit the murder of your partner.

But you were committing a felony that led to your partner getting murdered.

In this case, you will get charged with the felony murder of your friend.

A murder by specific means that you are committing murder with things like:

  • drive-by shootings
  • detonating a bomb

What Is A 2nd Degree Murder?

Second-degree murder is killing someone without any form of planning or premeditation.

Second-degree murder is an intentional homicide crime, like first-degree murder.

Second-degree murderers still have the intent to kill but are not premeditated.

Premeditation is what distinguishes second degree-murder from first-degree murder.

Those committing second-degree murders:

  • had the intent to kill
  • had the intent to inflict serious bodily harm
  • acted with disregard for human life

Second-Degree Murder Definition

Second-degree murder is killing someone with malicious intent that’s not premeditated.

Requirements For Second-Degree Murder

There are two requirements for murder to get classified as second-degree murder.

These two requirements are:

  • malice aforethought
  • intent to kill

Malice aforethought means the murder got committed with a disregard for human life.

And with clear intent to kill the victim.

Intent to kill means that the defendant intended to kill the victim.

Intent can get used for felony murders, too.

You may have intended to commit:

  • robbery
  • arson
  • kidnapping
  • sexual assault

But you may not have intended to kill someone or for someone to get killed.

But, since you intended the criminal act, it’s still intended to kill.

This is because the criminal act that you intended to do led to the murder.

Examples Of 2nd Degree Murder

There are three types of murders that get classified as second-degree murder.

These three types of murders are:

Intentional murders without premeditation are intentional murders that were not planned out.

These murders are usually an act of provocation or “the heat of passion.”

This means killing a human being in the heat of the moment.

Some states categorize this as voluntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is unintentional killing from recklessness or criminal negligence.

Recklessness means being aware of the risk they were creating.

Negligence means they weren’t aware of the risk but should have been.

An example of negligence is a parent leaving their child in the car on a hot day and they die.

Or a tour operator not giving passengers safety protocols and one dies.

A depraved indifferent murder is causing death during a reckless or dangerous act.

A drunk driver killing someone is an example of depraved indifference

What Is A 3rd Degree Murder?

Third-degree murder is the least severe form of murder.

Sentencing for third-degree murder is only available in three states:

Third-degree murder is a non-premeditated murder.

Third-degree murders are unplanned, unintentional killings.

These murders had intent to harm, but not to kill.

Third-degree murders are accidental murders that are not a part of another felony.

Third-Degree Murder Definition

Third-degree murder is murder with the intent to harm, not kill.

3rd-degree murders are unplanned, unintentional, and not premeditated.

Requirements For Third-Degree Murder

There are two requirements for murder to get classified as third-degree murder.

These two requirements are:

  • intent to harm (not kill)
  • no premeditation

Intent to harm without the intent to kill lands you with third-degree murder.

This means that you wanted to hurt someone but accidentally killed them.

No premeditation means that you were not planning on killing someone.

Examples Of 3rd Degree Murder

There are three types of murders that get classified as second-degree murder.

These three types of murders are:

  • non-violent, felony murders
  • depraved indifference murder
  • drug consumption leads to death

A third-degree murder can be voluntary or involuntary.

An example of voluntary murder is falling and pushing someone off a ledge on accident.

An example of involuntary murder is punching someone and unintentionally killing them.

A non-violent felony murder is someone dying while committing a non-violent felony.

Let’s say that someone dies while you are committing:

  • burglary, robbery, home invasion, arson, carjacking
  • rape, sexual battery
  • kidnapping, child abuse, human trafficking

You don’t have to kill someone to get charged with felony murder.

Let’s say that you have an accomplice and that accomplice gets shot.

You will get charged with their murder.

This is because the murder occurred due to your premeditated actions.

A depraved indifferent murder is causing death during a reckless or dangerous act.

A drunk driver killing someone is an example of depraved indifference.

And drug consumption leading to death is another example of third-degree murder.

Let’s say you sell or give someone drugs, they consume too much, and they overdose.

You selling or giving them drugs leads to their death.

You will get charged with third-degree murder.

Sentencing For The Different Degrees Of Murder

Let’s look at the charges for the different degrees of murder cases.

We have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murder charges to look at.

First-Degree Murder Charges

First-degree murder charges carry from 25 years to life in prison to death penalties.

  • Idaho gives you death or life without parole.
  • Illinois gives you 20 – 60 years without parole.
  • Mississippi gives you death or life without parole.
  • Florida gives you life with a minimum of 40 years in prison.

The most common first-degree murder charges are:

  • the death sentence
  • life without parole

Each state (jurisdiction) has its own criminal laws about first-degree murder charges.

Some give you the possibility of parole for life imprisonment while some do not.

Second-Degree Murder Charges

Second-degree murder charges carry from 6 years to life in prison.

  • Louisiana gives you life in prison without parole.
  • Michigan gives you life in prison.
  • Florida gives you life in prison.
  • Vermont gives you at least 20 years in prison.
  • Alabama gives you at least 10 years in prison.
  • Arkansas gives you at least 6 years in prison.

Each state (jurisdiction) has its own criminal laws about second-degree murder charges.

Some state laws give you the possibility of parole while some do not.

There are also elements that either:

  • increase your 2nd-degree murder charges, or;
  • decrease your murder charges.

Things that reduce (known as “mitigating”) your murder charges are:

  • not having prior criminal records
  • having a mental illness
  • showing genuine remorse

Things that increase your 2nd-degree murder charges are:

  • committing 2nd-degree murder as a hate crime
  • using excessive brutality in the murder
  • using a deadly weapon (a gun) in the murder
  • extreme indifference

Third-Degree Murder Charges

Only three states issue third-degree murder charges.

Here are the murder charges for third-degree murders in these three states:

Killing Someone In Self Defense

You can kill someone in self-defense.

But you can only defend yourself with enough force to eliminate the threat.

Meaning if someone pushes you, you can’t kill them in self-defense.

A roughly equal amount of force would be pushing them down so you can get away.

You will need a criminal defense lawyer to prove you acted in self-defense.

And your murdering someone was an appropriate force to eliminate the threat.

Other Definitions For What Are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-Degree Murders

Here are other definitions surrounding 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murders. 

What Is A Homicide?

Homicide is the unlawful killing of a person by another person.

What Is Premeditated Murder?

A premeditated murder is a murder that was planned out ahead of time.

What Is First-Degree Manslaughter?

First-degree manslaughter is causing premeditated injuries.

And those injuries cause the death of another person.

What Is Second-Degree Manslaughter?

Second-degree manslaughter is someone causing injuries that lead to the death of another person.

And those injuries are a result of you acting recklessly.

What Is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter is when someone commits an unintentional act.

And that act causes injuries that lead to the death of another person.

What Is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter is when someone commits an intentional act.

And that act causes injuries that lead to the death of another person.

What Is Capital Murder?

Capital murder is first-degree murder that results in the death penalty.

The death penalty is what makes it capital murder, not the other way around.

What Is Negligent Homicide?

Negligent homicide is when your negligence results in the death of another person.

Negligence gets determined by:

  • ignoring known or obvious risks
  • disregarding the life and safety of others

Differences In The Types Of Murder

This section should expand on “what are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murders?”

Capital Murders vs First-Degree Murders

Capital murders always result in you getting the death penalty.

Capital murders are first-degree murders with the harshest penalties.

But, not all first-degree murders land you with the death penalty.

Some states only give you life for premeditated criminal homicide.

Difference Between Manslaughter And Homicide

Criminal homicide is the killing of a person by another person.

Manslaughter is causing injuries that lead to the death of another person.

With manslaughter, the intended outcome is not death.

The intended outcome is injuring the other person.

But, those injuries become manslaughter when they lead to the death of another person.

Difference Between Homicide And Murders

Not all homicides are illegal.

A soldier can commit homicide in war and it is legal.

But, when a citizen kills another person, it’s illegal.

When homicide is illegal, it’s called criminal homicide.

And criminal homicide is murder.

Murder is when someone illegally kills another person.

But homicide is when someone legally or illegally kills a person.

What’s The Difference Between 1st Degree And 2nd Degree Murders?

The difference between 1st and 2nd-degree murders is premeditation.

Premeditated murders are first-degree murders.

Non-premeditated murders are second-degree murders.

Convicted Of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Degree Murder?

If you are facing conviction of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree murder, fill out the form on this page.

Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience you need to defend your rights.

This way, you don’t:

  • get wrongfully convicted
  • spend decades in jail needlessly
  • never see your family or loved ones again
  • get wrongfully accused by police officers

You deserve a fair trial in the criminal justice system.

We can provide you with that.

Talk soon.

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