Murder describes the broad crime of taking someone’s life, yet it differs from manslaughter in that it typically must be premeditated. In order to differentiate between the levels of intent, murder is divided into several degrees. First degree murder is typically considered the most serious type of crime.
No matter what crime you are charged with, even if it is first degree murder, you deserve an attorney who is not afraid to fight for your rights. If you have been charged with first degree murder, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.
What Makes First Degree Murder Different?
There are two main characteristics of first degree murder that separate it from other types of murder. First, the prosecutor must prove that you planned the crime in advance, or premeditated upon the crime. This is what makes it different from charges like manslaughter.
Additionally, the prosecuting attorney must also show that the crime was willful. For instance, you must have known and planned for your actions to actually kill the victim. If you just meant to hit someone but ended up accidentally causing death, it can be difficult to make the charge of first degree murder stick.
Felony Murder Rule
In some states, including California, you can also commit first degree murder during the course of a felony. As an example, perhaps you broke into a person’s home, entered it, and proceeded to rob the safe. If the owner walked in, startling you into shooting and killing him, you can still be charged with first degree murder, even though you did not premeditate the killing.