Duhaime's Law Dictionary


First Degree Murder Definition:

The unlawful killing of another human being with malice, premeditation and deliberation.

Related Terms: Deliberate, Murder, Homicide, Felonious Homicide, Complicated Design Evidence, Manslaughter, Premeditation

Also spelled with a hyphen as in first-degree murder or presented as murder in the first degree.

While, generally, and consistent with felonious homicide of the common law, first degree murder is simply a homicide which is planned,  many jurisdictions write-in other offences in which death occurs to capture the offence as a first degree murder and enable the sentencing judge to invoke the penalties associated with it.

Canada's Criminal Code (2010) at §231:

"Murder is first degree murder or second degree murder.

"Murder is first degree murder when it is planned and deliberate....

"[M]urder is planned and deliberate when it is committed pursuant to an arrangement under which money or anything of value passes or is intended to pass from one person to another, or is promised by one person to another, as consideration for that other’s causing or assisting in causing the death of anyone or counselling another person to do any act causing or assisting in causing that death."

In State v Tirado, Justice Edmunds of the Supreme Court of North Carolina:

"First-degree murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with malice and with premeditation and deliberation."

California's Penal Code (2010), at §189, defines murder in the first degree as follows:

"All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive, a weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of  ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking ... or any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the intent to inflict death, is murder of the first degree. All other kinds of murders are of the second degree."

Chapter 200 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (§200.030):

"Murder of the first degree is murder which is: (a) Perpetrated by means of poison, lying in wait or torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing; (b) Committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, robbery, burglary, invasion of the home, sexual abuse of a child, sexual molestation of a child under the age of 14 years, child abuse or abuse of an older person or vulnerable person...; (c) Committed to avoid or prevent the lawful arrest of any person by a peace officer or to effect the escape of any person from legal custody; (d) Committed on the property of a public or private school, at an activity sponsored by a public or private school or on a school bus while the bus was engaged in its official duties by a person who intended to create a great risk of death or substantial bodily harm to more than one person by means of a weapon, device or course of action that would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person; or (e) Committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an act of terrorism."

REFERENCES:

  • Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46
  • State v. Tirado, 599 SE 2d 515 (2004). Interpreting §14-17 of the North Carolina General Statutes: "A murder which shall be perpetrated by means of a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon of mass destruction as defined in G.S. 14-288.21, poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which shall be committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of any arson, rape or a sex offense, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, or other felony committed or attempted with the use of a deadly weapon shall be deemed to be murder in the first degree, a Class A felony, and any person who commits such murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment in the State's prison for life without parole as the court shall determine pursuant to G.S. 15A-2000, except that any such person who was under 18 years of age at the time of the murder shall be punished with imprisonment in the State's prison for life without parole."

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