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How first-, second- and third-degree murder differ in Michigan

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Homicide can bring the most severe criminal charges in Michigan. However, the state does not classify all murders as the same and has different penalties for each.

Therefore, when a person faces murder charges, it is important to understand the differences between the degrees of this offense.

First-degree murder: premeditated homicide

First-degree murder encompasses intentional killings with premeditation and intent to cause harm or death. It includes planned murders, killings during felonies (such as robbery or arson) and murders of peace officers on duty.

Evidence of premeditation includes the lack of provocation, a plan to commit the offense, threats or brutality. A disregard for human life and intent to kill are also key elements.

Penalties for first-degree murder in Michigan include mandatory life imprisonment without parole, but there is no death penalty in the state. Factors like prior criminal history and the nature of the crime may influence sentencing.

Second-degree murder: a killing without premeditation

Second-degree murder in Michigan can involve any of the following:

  • Intentionally causing death without premeditation
  • Acting with disregard for human life
  • Intending serious bodily harm that results in death
  • Killing someone during the perpetration of a serious crime

Despite being less severe than first-degree murder, second-degree murder convictions carry harsh punishments. Penalties for second-degree murder in Michigan include up to life imprisonment.

Manslaughter: harm without intent to kill

Michigan does not have third-degree murder charges. Instead, the state recognizes manslaughter. The act might be voluntary, occurring in the heat of passion with intent to cause harm but without malice. Manslaughter can also be involuntary, resulting from unintentional actions or negligence.

One of the most common examples of manslaughter involves drunk driving. Penalties for manslaughter in Michigan include up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $7,000.

The legal consequences for murder underscore the seriousness of taking a life, whether through impulsive actions or negligent behavior. However, accidents happen, so a defendant should understand the differences in offenses and how to fight unwarranted murder charges.