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Understanding first-degree murder charges

Felony charges carry very harsh penalties for defendants who are convicted. One of the most serious charges someone can face is murder. For some, the murder charge they face will be first-degree murder.

First-degree murder, or capital murder, means that the defendant is accused of willfully killing someone in a planned manner. Premeditated actions are an integral component in many first-degree murder charges. A first-degree murder charge is also possible if the person killed wasn’t the intended victim. For example, if a person tries to shoot a person, but hits another and the person hit dies, first-degree murder charges are possible.

In some cases, first-degree murder is also used if someone is killed during the commission of a felony. If the victim was killed during the commission of a felony, it usually doesn’t matter if the killing was planned or unplanned. In some cases, a person helping to commit a crime can be charged with first-degree murder if someone is killed, even if he or she wasn’t the one who did the killing.

Another element that can come into question in some first-degree murder cases is the status of the victim. This means that first-degree murder can be a charge if the person who was killed was a child, law enforcement officer or domestic partner if there was a history of abuse.

The consequences a defendant faces for a murder charge are serious. Anyone who is facing a murder charge should make sure that he or she begins working as early as possible on a defense strategy. Exploring all applicable defense strategies can help defendants decide how to handle their case.

Source: FindLaw, “First Degree Murder Overview,” accessed June 14, 2015

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