Differentiating First-Degree Murder & Second-Degree Murder
Although cultures around the world have a different approach to intricacies in the legal field, the crime of murder is one that all countries can agree with in terms of severity and punishment.
In the United States, murder is considered as one of the gravest offenses by law that bears the heaviest penalties than span from life imprisonment to capital punishment. When you consider the severity of the crime, lawmakers, legal practitioners, and courts have been implored to gauge cases with extreme care and objective judgment, which is a clear priority that can never be overlooked.
Although murder has been around for long, there’s one part of it that many still find themselves struggling with: Differentiating first-degree and second-degree murder.
Comparing and differentiating both classes of murder
While they may seem quite interchangeable, the truth about each degree of murder is they have various qualities and factors that distinctly set them apart with respect to legal writing and filing. Despite the slight differences for the technical definitions of each degree depending on which state you’re looking at, the factors that set them apart are typically universal in nature.
To best understand the differences between both the classes of this offense, let’s go over each significant differentiating factor in further detail:
According to the legal definition
By definition, first-degree murder is described as a grave crime or offense that is planned and committed cruelly against one or more persons under special circumstances. The “special circumstances” that set this categorization apart are recognized as offenses made with the intention of financial gain, extreme torture, or assault. In other words, the first-degree categorization of this crime must entail having an intent to kill and premeditation and deliberation.
Second-degree murder (alternatively known as premeditated murder) is a crime that includes the scope of killing a spouse (or relative) or taking a life with the motive of personal gain and interest. It is worth noting that this degree is applicable to cases that take place without special circumstances. In certain countries and states, an unplanned killing due to an accident also constitutes second-degree murder.
According to the concept of the mode of how the crime is committed
Another differentiating factor between first and second-degree murder lies in the mode in which the crime was committed. In the former offense, the qualifying modes are poisoning, assault with a weapon, torture, or bombing that is committed during the course of a felony. On the other hand, the mode that is used to distinguish the latter offense is the presence of any weapon.
According to penalty
Aside from the mode used and the legal definition, another factor that distinguishes both classifications is the punishment administered for the crime.
When it comes to first-degree murders, the punishment or penalty handed can be either life imprisonment or death penalty due to the severity of the offense and how unfit the perpetrator is to rejoin society. Alternatively, second-degree murders merit up to 10 years of life in prison due to the less severe nation of the qualifying crimes.
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Although they may seem interchangeable, both first and second-degree murder has key characteristics that set them apart. With the help of this guide, you can best gauge a situation better and avoid committing any costly mistakes along the way when filing in court!
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