Understanding Second Degree Murder

Most of us have heard of first-degree murder, but fewer of us have heard of second-degree murder. Even fewer of us understand what second-degree murder is and the implications that the charge can have. 

For those of you looking to become prosecutors, defense attorneys, or criminal investigators, this blog post is for you. Learn more about a second-degree murder charge down below.

State by State

Remember that most criminal law is determined on the state level, not on the federal level. This means that states may have different nuances in criminal law and definitions. If you have questions or concerns about a specific state in particular, you should research that state’s statutes for more accurate information.

That being said, there are many similarities among states regarding criminal laws and regulations. This blog post will discuss second-degree murder in the most general sense possible, but again, look up state statutes for more specific information. 

What is Second Degree Murder?

It is easiest to answer this question by first going over what first-degree murder is. Murder in the first degree is the most intense and grave of all the murder offenses. First-degree murder is any murder that is committed intentionally — meaning that it is willful and is premeditated. An example of first-degree murder would be if someone planned to kill their boss because they did not give them the promotion that they wanted. In this case, the murder was planned and premeditated, and would fall under the category of first-degree murder.

Second-degree murder is a bit more complicated to understand. Essentially, second-degree murder is intentional, but not premeditated. The mentality of the murderer at the time is different between first and second-degree murder. Usually, with second-degree murder, the defendant acts in an impulsive manner, meaning the murder was not premeditated, but the defendant still knew the consequences of their actions.

Perhaps the above paragraph will be easier to understand with an example. Let’s say Tom went to Jack’s house to discuss a business deal. Tom went to the house with no intention to murder Jack, but at the house, they get into an argument over the business deal. Tom gets angry and stabs Jack with a knife from the kitchen, killing him. There was no premeditation because Tom had no plans to kill Jack before going to his house. However, he knew that stabbing Jack could possibly end Jack’s life.

Additionally, some states use second-degree murder as a catch-all term for any intentional or reckless killing that does not meet the standards for first-degree murder.

What to Do

If you are facing a second-degree murder charge, it is imperative that you reach out to a criminal defense attorney. Second-degree murder is an extremely serious offense that carries years of jail time, not to mention a huge blemish on your record. 

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