What Does a First-Degree Murder Charge Mean?
A first-degree murder refers to an unlawful killing that is willful and premeditated. It is the most serious of all homicide offenses in Louisiana. First-degree murder is punishable by death or a sentence of life in prison at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence in accordance with the determination of the jury.
Some specific criteria need to be met in order to determine an act first-degree murder. There are three main elements that constitute a first-degree murder:
In order to be charged with first-degree murder, it must be determined that the offender had the intent to end a human life. It is not required that they intended to kill the specific victim in order to qualify as first-degree murder. If the offender intended to kill a person, but kills the wrong person or another random person in the process, this would still qualify as first-degree murder.
When an act is considered “deliberated,” it means that the offender considered the act and its consequences beforehand and decided to carry it out anyway. An act that is deliberate is not provoked or performed in the heat of the moment. However, the simple fact that the offender was feeling angry or emotional in the moment does not disqualify the act from being considered deliberated.
Premeditation is similar to deliberation. If an act was premeditated, it means the offender considered it before committing it. In order for an act to be premeditated, it means the offender thought about it, regardless of how quickly. A premeditation can be as simple as seeing a weapon nearby and using it to commit the act.
If an offender has specific intent to kill certain kinds of people, they could face a first-degree murder charge as well. Such people include:
- Civilian employees of forensic laboratories
- Taxicab drivers
- Individuals under the age of 12 or above the age of 65
- Jail or prison guards
- Parole and probation officers
- Attorney generals
- Assistant attorney generals
- Attorney general investigators
- District attorneys
- Assistant district attorneys
- District attorney investigators
- A local or state policeman participating in his lawful duties
What Does a Second-Degree Murder Charge Mean?
A second-degree murder refers to the unpremeditated, but intentional killing of another person. It is less serious of a charge than first-degree murder, but more serious than manslaughter. Second-degree murder is punishable by life in prison with hard labor and without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence in accordance with the determination of the jury. The main difference between the punishment of a first-degree murder and a second-degree murder is that a conviction for first-degree murder can lead to the death penalty. Louisiana law also deems the following situations worthy of a second-degree murder charge:
- When the offender is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated or first-degree rape, forcible or second-degree rape, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, second-degree kidnapping, aggravated escape, assault by drive-by shooting, armed robbery, first-degree robbery, second-degree robbery, cruelty to juveniles, simple robbery second-degree cruelty to juveniles, or terrorism, even if the offender had no intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm
- When the offender illegally distributes or dispenses a controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedules I through V of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law that directly caused the death of the recipient of the substance
If you or someone you know is facing first or second-degree murder charges, it is essential to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney like Jarrett Ambeau at The Ambeau Law Firm. Call the firm at (225) 230-1181 or contact us online to find out how we can produce the best possible outcome for your case.