Second Degree Murder Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Second Degree Murder?

(n) Second degree murder is the death resulted from an assault, the motive of which was not to kill the victim but death happened because of the assault. Example: A person shoot another on knee to hurt him but the person died of draining out blood on failure to get medical assistance amounts to second degree murder where the intention was not to kill.

History and Meaning of Second Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is a legal term used to describe a criminal offense where the accused has intentionally caused the death of another person, but without any premeditation or malice aforethought. The concept of second-degree murder evolved in common law jurisdictions, with different countries defining the crime differently under their respective legal frameworks.

Unlike first-degree murder, where the killing is premeditated or planned beforehand, and is often committed with malice and intent, second-degree murder typically occurs spontaneously or in the heat of the moment. This makes it a less serious offense, but the perpetrator may still face severe legal consequences, including imprisonment or even capital punishment, depending on the law of the land.

Examples of Second Degree Murder

  1. A man gets into a bar fight with another patron and punches him in the face so hard that the victim falls backward and hits his head, resulting in death.
  2. A group of teenagers engages in a street race, and one of them accidentally hits a pedestrian, causing his death.
  3. A mother pushes her child violently during an argument, causing the child to hit their head and die from the resulting injuries.

Legal Terms Similar to Second Degree Murder

  1. Voluntary Manslaughter - a criminal offense where the accused had no prior intent to kill the victim but committed the act in the "heat of passion" or "sudden combat."
  2. Involuntary Manslaughter - a criminal offense where the death of another person results from the perpetrator's negligent or reckless actions, but without any intent to cause harm or kill.
  3. Third Degree Murder - also known as manslaughter in some jurisdictions, it is a criminal offense where the perpetrator caused the death of another person through an eminently dangerous act or depraved heart, even without any premeditation or intent to kill.