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The difference between first-degree and second-degree murder

One of the scariest types of crimes that an individual can be charged with is homicide. In general, a homicide means that someone takes the life of another person, but it is not always a crime. For example, if an individual kills someone in self-defense, it may not be considered a crime.

But in the situations where the legal system believes it was a criminal act, a prosecutor may charge the defendant with a specific type of homicide. The “worst” type of homicide is known as first-degree murder. In this case, the court needs to prove that there was deliberation, premeditation and willfulness. Some states may also require that “malice aforethought” be proved as well. The intent requirement basically means that the defendant intended to end a human life. This requirement, like the others, may vary a bit state to state.

Premeditation and deliberation is a bit different. It means that the person took some time to plan or form a conscious decision to kill an individual. The time spent planning or considering this act does not have to be very long.

Finally, malice aforethought is an idea that varies state to state, but on a very basic level means that the person had an indifference to human life.

The next level down in terms of criminal homicides is known as second-degree murder. The concept of second-degree murder can vary state to state but in general it is different from first-degree murder in terms of the defendant’s mental state. While first-degree murder includes a premeditative act, second-degree murder does not.

In our next post we will continue our discussion of the different types of criminal homicides.

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