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Difference Between First and Second Degree Murder?

Most people know there are different degrees of murder, but most don't realize how those differences are set.

We often hear headlines on first and second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter - it turns out that the differences between these felony charges are actually not that complex in theory. In this post, we'll focus on the differences between first and second degree murders:

  • The killings that are classified as first degree murder include:
    • Premeditated intentional killings, and
    • Felony murders.
  • The killings that are classified as second degree murder are either:
    • Unplanned intentional killings, or
    • Deaths caused by a reckless disregard for life.

As you can see, one of the biggest possible differences between the first and second degree is whether or not the killing was planned beforehand. A first degree murder would be one that the defendant thought about beforehand while a second degree murder be one that the defendant committed in the spur of a heated moment.

If a killing is committed while the defendant was committing another felony, it is automatically considered a first degree murder. If the defendant, for example, accidentally killed a cashier while robbing a gas station, that defendant would be charged with first degree murder. Otherwise, if the defendant killed somebody by accident in the spur of a moment, that defendant is considered reckless and charged with second degree murder.

Of course, the other main difference between first and second degree murders is that a second degree conviction is less severe. While it is pretty easy to list and discuss the legal theory that separates the degrees, in real life there is a pretty fine line between different types of killings. Ultimately, the difference in conviction comes down to how much evidence there is stacked up against the defendant, and how well the defendant's lawyer can fight off that evidence.

Murder convictions exist to protect citizens from unfair deaths, but degrees classify murders to protect citizens from being punished more than they should be. If you're ever charged with a crime in Texas, the highly experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Kyle Law Firm can protect your rights and help to fight off or reduce a possible conviction. No matter how serious the crime, you're entitled to a completely free case assessment - contact us today to schedule your free consultation today.

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