Hopefully you will never have to deal with a murder allegation in your lifetime. We hear about murder trials and charges each day. There are several different types of murder charges that a defendant can be charged with. In order to help make sense of the degrees of murder, lets start with the most serious crime in the murder spectrum.
First-degree murder usually falls into one of the following two categories: 1) Premeditated, intentional killings (like stalking someone before murdering them); or 2) Felony murder
Second-degree murder is generally either: 1) An unplanned, intentional killing (reacting in the heat of the moment when angry); or 2) A death caused by a reckless disregard for human life
Putting aside felony murder, the real difference between first and second-degree murder is the intent or mindset the defendant had when they took the action they did.
Third-degree murder (also called manslaughter in Washington) is an unplanned, unintentional killing that is not part of another felony. It can be either: 1) Involuntary (you fall and push someone off a ledge by accident) or 2) Voluntary (you punch someone and unintentionally kill them)
The biggest difference between murder third degree/manslaughter and the other two is that it is not planned, and it doesn’t rise to the level of reckless disregard for human life. In the eyes of the law, a person committing third-degree murder still shows ill will toward someone else by harming them.
Whether someone intends some harm but not death or there is an accident, they can still face manslaughter charges if someone dies because of their actions.
Third-degree murder charges only exist in three states: Pennsylvania, Florida, and Minnesota. Every other state uses the charges of manslaughter.
First-degree murder requires that a person (called the defendant) plan and intentionally carry out the killing. In contrast, second-degree murder requires that the killing either be intentional or reckless and occur in the spur of the moment. Taking the time to plan another person’s death is arguably a more serious crime.
There is also “adequate justification,” which can change how murder is charged.
Felony murder is a form of first-degree murder that occurs when a person dies – even accidentally – during a violent felony.
For instance, if a robber unintentionally kills a patron in a liquor store during the course, he may still be charged with committing first-degree murder even though the murder is unintentional.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.