Second-degree murder is ordinarily defined as: 1) an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable “heat of passion”; or 2) a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life. Second-degree murder may best be viewed as the middle ground between first degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Some jurisdictions make a distinction between different situations that constitute murder and prosecute the charges differently. These states usually break the crime of murder into first degree murder and second degree murder.
The exact definition of second degree murder varies between jurisdictions, but there are a few common elements that second degree murder shares across jurisdictions. The essential elements of second-degree murder differ from those of first degree murder. The criminal act for both crimes is the same: the killing of another person. What separates the two is the perpetrator’s mental state at the time of the killing.
First degree murder involves a premeditated killing, meaning the killer made a plan to kill the victim and then carried that plan out. Second degree murder does not require premeditation, however. Instead, there are three typical situations that can constitute second degree murder: 1) A killing done impulsively without premeditation, but with “malice aforethought”; 2) A killing that results from an act intended to cause serious bodily harm; or 3) A killing that results from an act that demonstrates the perpetrators “depraved indifference” to human life
Intent to Cause “Serious Bodily Harm”
A second category of acts that constitute second degree murder are acts where the perpetrator intends to cause serious bodily harm with full knowledge that death could result from the act. The killer might not necessarily intend to kill the victim, but knows that death is a likely outcome.
“Depraved Indifference” to Human Life
The final main type of second degree murder occurs when a victim dies as a result of the perpetrator’s depraved indifference to human life. Depraved indifference to human life may be defined differently depending on the jurisdiction, but it generally means that the perpetrator had an utter disregard for the potential damage their actions could cause to other people.
Some states also classify killings that occur during the commission of another felony as second degree murder, although other states characterize these felony murders as murder in the first degree. An individual can be found guilty of felony murder even if he or she didn’t actually kill anyone and only intended to commit the original felony.
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.