First Degree Murder Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of First Degree Murder, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is First Degree Murder?

(n) First Degree Murder is the killing of human beings deliberately with a pre-plan while doing another crime, or felony etc. Ex. Killing the victim of the rape, killing the guard while looting the bank.

History and Meaning of First Degree Murder

First-degree murder is the most severe form of homicide, as it involves the deliberate and premeditated killing of another person with malice aforethought. This means the perpetrator had the intention of killing the victim, and did so after considering the act and making a conscious decision to commit the crime. The term has a long history in the legal system, and the precise definition may vary slightly based on jurisdiction.

In most jurisdictions, first-degree murder is considered a capital offense, meaning it carries the possibility of the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. While many other forms of homicide, such as manslaughter and second-degree murder, are crimes of passion or occur in the heat of the moment, first-degree murder requires planning and forethought.

Examples of First Degree Murder

  1. A man hires a hitman to kill his business partner over a dispute. The hitman carries out the killing according to the plan, and both the man who ordered the killing and the hitman would be charged with first-degree murder.
  2. A woman poisons her husband slowly over a period of weeks, knowing he will eventually die. She has shown premeditation and deliberate planning and could be charged with first-degree murder.
  3. A group of teenagers plans to break into a home to commit robbery. They come armed and one of them ends up shooting and killing the homeowner. All the teens involved could be charged with first-degree murder.

Legal Terms Similar to First Degree Murder

  1. Second-degree murder - a killing that is intentional, but not premeditated or planned.
  2. Manslaughter - a killing that is committed without premeditation, usually in the heat of the moment or during a sudden quarrel.
  3. Felony murder - a killing that occurs while another felony is being committed, such as during a bank robbery.