Written by Canterbury Law Group

First Degree Murder Charges

First Degree Murder Charges

First degree murder is considered by the majority of states as unlawful killing that is willful and premeditated (planned.) Most states also apply what is known as the “felony murder rule,” whereby a person commits murder in the first degree, should  a death (even an accidental death) results from certain felonies like arson, burglary, kidnapping, robbery and rape. Read on to learn more.

Elements Of First Degree Murder

These elements are willfulness, deliberation and premeditation. However federal law and some states also include malice afterthought as an element. The amount of malice differs from state to state. Most states decide based on certain kinds of killings. However, not all states divide murders into degrees. For example, in some states the top level of murder is known as “capital murder.”


There must be a specified intent to kill with a first degree murder. Even if the eventual victim was not the original intention. Many state laws sat killing with a depraved indifference to human life qualifies as first degree murder.

Deliberation And Premeditation

This can only be decided on an individual case basis. Having time enough to make the decision to kill and then act on it following enough time for a reasonable person to think of the consequences usually is enough. Deliberation and preparation must always happen prior to the killing.

Malice Aforethought

Certain killings are categorized as first degree murder, for example:

  • The killing of a child by means of unreasonable force
  • Certain killings when in a pattern of domestic abuse
  • The murder of a member of law enforcement
  • Homicides as part of another crime such as robbery, arson or rape
  • Intentional Poisonings
  • Murders as a result of being imprisoned
  • Murders where the killer waited for and/or ambushed the victim

Source:  https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/first-degree-murder-overview.html

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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.

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