Murder is among the most serious crimes that can be prosecuted in a court of law. No matter what the circumstances, the penalties for being convicted of taking the life of another person are always extremely severe. Depending on the facts of a particular case, a charge of murder can take several different forms.
Types of Murder Charges
A person charged with the crime of murder can face different consequences based on the perceived seriousness of their actions. Murder charges are typically divided into three different degrees:
- Third Degree Murder. If a person is believed to have killed someone without intending to end their life, they may be charged with third degree murder. For example, if someone intended to cause harm to another person but did not intend to kill them and the victim died as a result of their injuries, a third degree murder charge may apply. This charge is sometimes used for a case of criminally negligent homicide.
- Second Degree Murder. Sometimes called a “heat of passion” murder, the killing of another person without premeditation can fit the definition of second degree murder. This means that if a person attacked and killed another person but did not plan the crime in advance, they might be convicted of second degree murder.
- First Degree Murder. This is the most serious murder charge. A charge of first degree murder applies when someone is believed to have planned to end another person’s life in advance and then carried out their plan to kill. A conviction for this charge can sometimes bring a death sentence.
Defending Against Murder Charges
There are charges that can apply to suspected murder cases that are less severe than an actual murder conviction. Some of these crimes include negligent homicide, involuntary manslaughter or death as the result of self defense.
A defense attorney may try to secure a plea deal for the defendant to confess to one of these lesser charges in order to reduce the severity of the sentence. Although these crimes are severely punished, they do not always carry a sentence of life imprisonment or death.