Criminal Law

Know The Different Degrees Of Murders

degree of murders

One of the most heinous crimes of all is murder; the legal terms for various crimes may often confuse you. A suspect gets legal charges filed against him for murder based on which degree of murders they have committed.

If you are trying to understand the different degrees of murder, here is a simple guide to help you regarding how to differentiate between three degrees of murder. Based on the degrees of murder, the law holds the law suspect responsible and passes down judgment accordingly.

There are three degrees of murder; first degree, second degree, and third-degree murders.

For a first degree murder, the law punishes the accused by death sentence or life imprisonment. If a suspect is accused of second degree murder, they face any term of imprisonment. If a suspect commits a third degree murder, they are fined $40000 and a sentence not more than 25 years.

Different Degree Of Murders

Different Degree Of Murders

In this article, I have talked about the different degree of murders and how a suspect faces punishment based on the degree of murders.

What are 1st 2nd and 3rd degree murders? Here is a brief description of that question. Here is everything you need to know about the first degree of murder.

First Degree Of Murders

According to California law, the killing of a fetus, or a human being, with malicious aforethought. The first degree of murder is known as the most severe form of murder.

The first degree of murders are the most heinous form of murder. Any predetermined murder with a malicious motive behind it is classified as a murder of first degree.

Aspects Of First Degree Murder

The law has set several aspects to categorize the degree of murders. With these aspects into consideration, the law can determine the degree of murder. Here are some critical elements of the first degree murder –

Intent: a first degree murder is a willful or predetermined murder. The criminal has a predetermined motive for killing a person. Therefore, they attack the person with the intent to cause harm or death.

Premeditation: premeditation of murder is another key factor to quantity whether a murder was a first degree or not. Premeditation means that the suspect has murdered a person with a planned purpose. Such murder doesn’t occur in the heat of the moment; it’s purposeful and planned out.

Malice aforethought: another crucial term in determining whether the murder was a preplanned one is malice aforethought. It means that the accused possessed vile and evil thoughts for killing a person. It is a deliberate intent to kill generated by a thought for doing evil.

Punishment For A First Degree Murder

The first degree of punishment has the strongest punishment for all. Based on the degree of murders, punishment for these murders can vary. Punishment for the first degree of murder includes a death sentence imprisonment for life without any parole. 

  • Death Penalty: the first and the strongest punishment for the first degree of murder is the death penalty. 
  • A life sentence without any parole: criminals charged with a first degree of murder may also face a life sentence without any chance of parole.
  • Lesser sentence:  a 25 years sentence is also a punishment for the first degree of murder. Judging the scenario of murder and the nature of the crime, a convict may also face such judgment.

Second Degree Of Murders

Second degree murders are slightly less severe compared to the first degree of murder. In this degree of murder, a suspect kills a person without any premeditation. In such cases, the convict usually has an intent to cause severe harm rather than killing a person.

All murders that don’t qualify under a first degree fall under second degree

Aspects Of Second Degree Murder

As the first degree murders, there are also some aspects of the second degree of murders. For instance-

Intent without any premeditation: in a second degree murder, the suspect has an intention of killing a person however, there is no premonition. These murders often occur in the heat of the moment; there is no plan from before for such killing. 

Intent to cause fetal harm: when it comes to a second degree of murder, the criminal has an intent to cause bodily harm instead of killing a person. 

Extreme indifference to other human beings’ life: a defendant of the second degree murder shows complete indifference to another human life. 

Felony murder: Another aspect of the second degree murder felony murder. A defendant of the second degree murder may kill a person during a felony like a robbery.

Punishment For A Second Degree Murder

The severity of the second degree murder can increase if the defendant is charged with any previous crime. Also, if they have any troubled childhood or mental illness, the severity of the punishment may also decrease. 

There are several factors to determine the scale of punishment such defendant needs to face; for instance – 

  • The location of the murder
  • Nature of the crime
  • Several other reasons.

In case of a second degree murder, a defendant may face any term of a life sentence. 

Third Degree Of Murders

Third degree murders only exist in three states; Florida, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Apart from these states, the third degree of murder does not exist in any other state. 

In a third-degree murder, there is no premeditation and only an intent to cause a fatal wound.

Punishment For A Third Degree Murder

In third-degree murder, the defendant is charged with a $40000 fine and a life sentence which is limited to 25 years. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are some frequently asked questions about the different degree of murders-

Q1. What Is The Difference Between First And Second Degree Murder? 

Ans: A first-degree murder is a purposeful murder with malicious intent. In such killing, the defendant has a premeditated plan of killing a victim. But, second-degree murder is something that occurs instantly in the heat of the moment. The convict does have the malicious intent of killing (or causing serious injury), but that is not preplanned.

Q2. What Is the Difference Between A Second And Third Degree Murder?

Ans: According to the law of the US, third-degree murder does not exist except for three states; Minnesota, Florida, and Pennsylvania. The third-degree murder is almost similar to a second-degree murder; only in such murder, a convict has to pay a fine of $40000 and spend a life sentence within the limit of 25 years.

Q3. What Is A First Degree Murder?  

Ans: A first-degree murder is a premeditated crime where a defendant has an evil and previously organized motive of killing a convict. This is an inexcusable crime according to the law. In such murder, a defendant either faces a death sentence, or they have to spend lifetime imprisonment.


There is a difference between manslaughter and murders; legal killing, for instance, a soldier killing another soldier during battle, is not a crime; homicide vs murders difference lies within the legality of the murder. 

When determining the degree of murders, the nature of the murderer, intent, premeditation play as key determining factors. I hope that this article was capable of simplifying different degrees of murders and the type of punishment one has to face for such a crime.

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Shahnawaz Alam
Shahnawaz is a passionate and professional Content writer. He loves to read, write, draw and share his knowledge in different niches like Technology, Cryptocurrency, Travel, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, and Healthcare.

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