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What constitutes first-degree murder?

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2023 | Violent Crimes |

Murder charges are not always straightforward. In fact, when someone takes another person’s life, there are a variety of charges the prosecutor may pursue.

The most egregious charge a person could face is first-degree murder. Prosecutors will generally use this if they have overwhelming evidence of guilt and if the circumstances are exactly right according to the law. There are specific requirements a case must meet to be up for this charge.


One of the biggest requirements for a first-degree murder conviction is that the prosecutor must show there was forethought. There must be some situation or planning that shows the person had a chance to evaluate what he or she was about to do before committing the murder.

For this reason, accidents do not fall under this charge. It can also be difficult to show premeditation in some cases, so a lesser murder charge may be better.

Felony exception

The only time a prosecutor does not have to show premeditation is when the death occurs during the commission of a felony. When this happens, everyone charged with the felony can face first-degree murder charges even if they were not even present when the death occurred.

State of mind

First-degree murder does not require a certain state of mind. However, there is always the option to show there was some mental state that led to the murder but that makes the person unaccountable for his or her actions.

Charging someone with first-degree murder requires the right set of circumstances. It can be a very difficult crime to prosecute. Often, such charges change due to a plea bargain because of the difficulty in convincing a jury or a judge the crime fits this specific charge.