Premeditation Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Premeditation?

n.It is planning,scheming certain ideas with the intention of commiting a serious crime like murder.

History and Meaning of Premeditation

Premeditation is a legal term that refers to the act of planning or thinking about a crime before it is actually committed. This element is an essential part of some crimes, such as murder or arson, and it can elevate the seriousness of the offense, leading to harsher punishments. Premeditation is not the same as motive; it is about the defendant’s intent to commit the crime, and the planning of how and when to do it.

The concept of premeditation has been present in legal systems for centuries, and it has evolved over time. In common law jurisdictions, premeditation was originally associated with the crime of treason and was only applicable to the killing of the king. Later on, it was extended to other crimes, but the definition was different depending on the state or country. Today, premeditation is generally defined as a deliberate and conscious decision to commit a crime, made before the crime is actually carried out.

Examples of Premeditation

  1. John retrieved his hunting rifle from its locked case, loaded it with ammunition, hiked to the victim’s campground, and shot him in the head. The prosecutor argued that these actions showed premeditation on John’s part, as he had planned and executed the murder with a deadly weapon.
  2. Susan went to the jewelry store and pretended to admire the diamonds. She asked the salesperson to show her some expensive bracelets, and while the salesperson was distracted, she pocketed one and left without paying. Even though the theft was not violent, the prosecutor could argue that Susan had premeditated the crime by pretending to be interested in the jewelry and using the distraction as an opportunity to steal.
  3. David and his accomplice plotted to rob the bank a week before the crime. They scouted the area, planned the escape route, and rehearsed their roles. When the day arrived, they executed the plan and were seen fleeing the bank with bags of money. The prosecutor could use the evidence of planning and preparation to argue that David and his partner had premeditated the robbery.

Legal Terms Similar to Premeditation

  1. Intent - The state of mind that a person has when he or she performs an actus reus, with knowledge or purpose of the consequences that will follow.
  2. Malice - The mental state that prompts a person to intentionally cause harm to another person or property without justification or excuse.
  3. Deliberation - The act of carefully considering a decision or action before taking it. This term is often used together with premeditation, as they are similar concepts.
  4. Mens rea - The mental element of a crime, which refers to the defendant's state of mind at the time of the offense. It includes intent, knowledge, or recklessness, among other states.
  5. First-degree murder - A type of homicide that involves premeditation and deliberation or other aggravating factors, such as the killing of a police officer or a person during a robbery.