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What's the difference between first and second degree Murder?

There are few charges more serious than murder. The mere accusation can completely ruin your life. If convicted, the penalties can range from a few years in prison to a life sentence or the death penalty. However, not all murder charges are the same. The law recognizes varying degrees based on a range of factors.

So what is the difference between first and second degree murder? Simply put, first degree murder involves premeditation. That is, the accused made a plan to end someone's life and carried out that plan. By comparison, second degree murder doesn't involve planning. Instead, the law looks at a few factors:

  • Did the accused commit the crime without planning but with malice aforethought? This means the accused certainly wanted to harm or kill the victim in the moment but had never considered it before that moment.
  • Did the accused commit an act that was meant to cause harm and the victim died as a result? An example of this is the accused hitting someone in the head with a hard object. The accused knows that death is a possibility but didn't necessarily intend to kill.
  • Did the victim die because of the accused depraved indifference to human life? Let's say someone is dropping bricks from an overpass. They may not intend to kill anyone but they certainly did not hold any regard for the human life passing underneath the overpass.

If you're facing murder charges in Louisiana, a criminal defense attorney may be your best option for clearing your name.

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