Understanding First-Degree Murder
In plain and simple terms, murder is the unlawful act of killing another person with malice aforethought. This is the intent to kill or harm someone. It can also mean an extreme or reckless disregard for human life. In a court of law, there are different degrees of murder. The degree depends on the action that was committed and what type of intent the killer had.
You can be charged at both the federal and state level for murder. Each state has an individual definition of what constitutes the different degrees of murder. Some even have different classifications of different types of killings than others.
What is First-Degree Murder?
First-degree murder is the most serious murder charge. In general, this is an unlawful killing of another that involves premeditation. Premeditation is the act of planning for the murder before the event took place. The courts will have to show that the killer intended to murder the victim by preparing to do so before the murder took place.
Premeditation does not always mean that the person carefully planned out the murder weeks in advance. It can happen quickly where someone makes a deliberate choice to kill someone before they take the action to do it. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the person acted with premeditation. Common forms of premeditation include taking deliberate steps like stalking, picking up a weapon, or lying in wait- even if no specific victim was picked out beforehand.
Even if the killing does not fit the definition of first-degree murder, the perpetrator could still be charged under the felony murder rule. If a killing takes place during the commission of a violent crime, even if the death was accidental, they can be charged with first-degree murder. Violent crimes that can carry this charge include rape, robbery, kidnapping, and arson.
What are the different types of Murder?
The state will more than likely have jurisdiction over the murder. Federal murder charges only happen in certain situations. These can include murder in a federal facility or on federal land, killing someone while committing a federal offense, murder of a federal witness or federal employee, murder for hire, or murder of a Native American.
States get to define and classify the different levels of murder committed in their jurisdiction. However, the majority of the states have similar or identical classifications. For example, all states have a first-degree murder charge. Other common murder charges include manslaughter and second-degree murder.
Manslaughter is a killing that does not involve malice aforethought. This is usually one of the lesser charges someone can receive for killing another person. Voluntary manslaughter, also known as a heat of passion murder, means that the killer was strongly provoked or acted in a passionate moment. Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of someone. Severe car accidents may result in this charge and negligence is usually the key in this type of case.
Second-degree murder is an unlawful and intentional killing that usually does not have any form of premeditation. There are three main types.
- No premeditation: There was no planning on the part of the killer. While they intend to kill the person during the murder, they did not prepare or think about it before the act.
- Intent to cause harm: The killer did plan or prepare but their intent was not to murder. They may have decided to beat someone up but not kill them. Another example would be taking a gun to threaten or scare someone but then actually killing them.
- Indifference to human life: The indifference must be extreme. In court, it usually needs to be shown that the killer had an obvious and utter disregard for the fact that their actions may kill someone.
Murder Charges in Ohio
Ohio’s murder laws have some of the same elements as other states but there are also some noticeable differences. The three main types of murder in the state are manslaughter, murder, and aggravated murder. Manslaughter is similar to other states and can be classified as either voluntary or involuntary.
Murder is defined as purposefully causing the death of another or unlawfully terminating a woman’s pregnancy. Murder is also a charge for any felony murder that takes place during a first- or second-degree felony. If the killer already has a criminal record of a similar crime, they will face harsher penalties or charges.
The most serious charge in Ohio is aggravated murder. This is the state’s version of first-degree murder. There must be a showing of premeditation or evil intent. The victim in the murder also matters for this charge. Examples of victims that would carry an aggravated murder charge include law enforcement officers, terminating a pregnancy without permission, killing a woman who is pregnant, or killing a child under the age of 13. If convicted of this charge, the penalty can be life in prison or death.