Frank, Juengel & Radefeld, Attorneys at Law
Local: 314-282-8657
Toll Free: 800-748-2105

Murder in the what degree?

When we think of "murder" in the general sense, we think of an intentional killing or death. But did you know that some murder is not always intentional? What is the actual difference between terms like "first-degree murder," "involuntary manslaughter" or other representations of death by human?

There are four basic types of murder. In Missouri, murder is the unlawful killing of another human being. However, the difference between first-degree and second-degree murder is significant.

Murder in the first degree

First-degree murder is committed with thought or a plan -- premeditation, deliberation and other forms of consideration. In this type of case, the prosecutor must demonstrate to the court that the defendant intentionally and deliberately took the life of another (without a legally justifiable reason).

Murder in the second degree

Murder in the second degree is slightly different. Second-degree murder is still an intentional killing, but it is not is not necessarily premeditated. It is important to note that the offense is not committed in the heat of passion, either.

This type of murder is a killing caused by dangerous actions and the offender's clear disregard for human life. This charge lands somewhere between first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

What is manslaughter?

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being; however, the offense is not necessarily intentional or planned. Voluntary manslaughter is the taking of another's life in the heat of passion.

The classic example is a man coming home from work to find his wife in bed with another person. Immediately, the husband grabs a nearby baseball bat and bludgeons his wife to death. The offense may not have been premeditated, planned or deliberated, but it happened in the heat of the moment.

Note that if a reasonable period of time were to pass between the discovery of the affair and the killing (i.e., the defendant had a few minutes to cool off), the husband could be charged with second-degree murder instead of voluntary manslaughter. This is because the defendant would have had time to think, and the offense would not be an immediate reaction.

Involuntary manslaughter is different. Let's say a man goes out drinking with his friends on a Friday night. He has one too many alcoholic beverages; gets behind the wheel of a car; and attempts to drive home. The motorist operates the car at three times the posted speed limit and accidently hits and kills a pedestrian walking alongside the road. In this case, the killing would not be intentional and premeditated; however, the unlawful act would be deemed grossly negligent. This is involuntary manslaughter.

Talk to an attorney

Murder vs. manslaughter is one of the hardest concepts to grasp in criminal law. What is important to remember is that manslaughter is an offense carried out in the moment.

To learn more about murder and manslaughter, as well as the available defenses to these charges, speak with legal professional.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
AV Preeminent The National Trial Lawyers Super Lawyers Top 50 Avvo Rating Avvo Rating 10
The Bar Association Of Metropolitan St Louis Illinois State Bar Association St Louis Business Journal National Association Of Criminal Defense Lawyers The Missouri Bar
St Louis County Bar Association Up Coming Missouri Association Of Criminal Defense Lawyers Super Lawyers | Matthew Alan Radefeld | 10 years Super Lawyers | Daniel A. Juengel | 5 years
Contact us for a consultation

Ready To Protect Your Rights

We invite you to make an appointment with us to discuss your legal needs. You can reach us online or by calling us at 314-282-8657.

We provide representation in Missouri, Illinois and federal courts across the nation. Lawyers from around the country refer clients to us, knowing we will deliver the superior level of representation to their clients they would expect from themselves.

Receive the trusted counsel you deserve. Contact us for a consultation.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

7710 Carondelet Avenue
Suite 350
St. Louis, MO 63105

Toll Free: 800-748-2105
Phone: 314-282-8657
St. Louis Law Office Map