Third Degree Murders

Third-degree murder is the least serious kind of murder that only occurs in three US states: Florida, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Non-premeditated killing with the purpose to inflict physical damage rather than death is the most common definition.

Third Degree Murders

What is the Law of Murder?

Murder laws vary from state to state in the United States. A hierarchy of matricide offences exists across most US jurisdictions.

The most serious of these are first-degree murder or felony murder; the next most serious are second-degree murder or third-degree murder; the least serious are voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter; and the least serious of all are reckless matricide and negligent murder or justifiable matricide.

However, this is a significant simplification in light of the fact that there are at least 52 relevant jurisdictions, each with their own criminal code.

Degrees of Murder

In 1794, the state of Pennsylvania became the first to break down the broad crime of murder into a series of progressively more serious offences.

This statute is sometimes characterised in terms of a wish to confine the scope of application of death punishment in that state and in the other states which later graded murder into “first” and “second” degrees.

At that time, states in the United States were required by statute to split murder into two categories, first and second, based on the English common law, which had been incorporated into their legislation.

Only those who were convicted of first-degree murder faced the death penalty. By 1953 three states—namely Florida, Minnesota, and Wisconsin—had further formed the subcategory of third-degree murder.

The Difference Between First, Second, and Third Degree Murders

Murder is defined as the illegal killing of a human being. According to the American legal system, murder may be classified into three levels: first, second, and third degree murder.

Each category relates to the various conditions for how the murder was done, including the motivations for the murder, the weapon used, and whether the act was planned and conducted with purpose.

The categorization of murder effects both the sentence and fines the accused may receive.

But what are first-, second-, and third-degree murder? In this post, we’ll take a closer look at each of these offenses, including some instances and possible punishments.

After that, we’ll compare the various types of murder to make it easier for you to make a distinction.

What is First-Degree Murder?

The US legal system defines the most serious kind of murder as “murder in the first degree.” When a murder is conducted with premeditation, it is called a “intentional” killing.

It was done with no regard for the victim’s life, in other words, in order to damage or kill the victim. First-degree murder requires a deliberate act of violence.

Elements of a First-Degree Murder

According to criminal law, the following three factors must be present for a killing to be considered murder in the first degree:

  • Malice Aforethought: First-degree murder is always done with malice aforethought. This is a legal word that denotes the offense was conducted with a flagrant disrespect for human life and a clear purpose to murder or else commit terrible crimes.

  • A deliberate killing in the first degree is always a matricide. This suggests it was deliberate and thought out. In such circumstances, the defendant will have made plans and preparations for the murder, such as procuring a murder weapon or waiting for the victim to return home to strike.

  • As a last note, there is no first-degree murder committed without malicious intent. This signifies that the defendant fully meant to carry out a criminal act, whether it murder itself or some other form of major offense such as robbery, arson, or abduction.

Examples of 1st Degree Murder

There are three categories of first-degree murder:

  • In a first-degree premeditated murder, the murder deliberately planned the act and carried it out with the express purpose of killing the victim. The act was premeditated, and the defendant was motivated by a desire to take the victim’s life.

  • Felony Murder: A offense murder is the word used when a human being is slain during the commission of another felony. The felony must be an intrinsically hazardous crime, such as a robbery, burglary, rape, abduction, or arson.

  • When a precise technique of killing is used, it is called “murder by specified means.” Examples include a drive-by shooting, or laying in wait.

Sentencing and Penalties of 1st Degree Murder

As first-degree murders are the most serious form of all murder accusations, it follows that they also carry the most severe sentences.

The maximum charge for capital murder or life in prison varies from state to state, although in many cases the victim faces the death sentence or life in prison.

Some offenders will be handed lighter sentences if certain mitigating conditions apply, such as the defendant being mentally ill, under duress, or if they are a juvenile.

Conversely, the heaviest punishments are handed to individuals who committed a murder in combination with another crime or if the person has committed murders in the past.

What exactly is a murder of the second degree?

Second-degree murder is when the illegal death of another human being was carried out without any sort of planning or premeditation.

The defendant may have planned to inflict injury but did not necessary aim to kill. For a crime to be considered second-degree, the perpetrator must have intended to do harm.

Features of Second-Degree murder

The following criteria must be present for a murder to be classified as one of the second degree:

  • Premeditation Is Missing: The planning and premeditation required for a murder in the second degree is missing. Instead, killings in this subcategory are frequently the consequence of acting impulsively due to wrath and with no purpose to kill the victim before that instant in time.

  • All second-degree murders are committed with the intention of harming or killing someone, even if they are not planned. However, the purpose to otherwise hurt the victim would also meet this condition.

Examples of 2nd Degree Murder

The following instances all constitute murder of the second degree:

  • Purposeful Murder Without Premeditation: This refers to intentional homicides that were not planned or premeditated in any manner. Usually, homicides in this scenario are the consequence of provocation or passion.

  • Involuntary Manslaughter: When a human being is killed by accident, this is known as involuntary manslaughter. A case in point: the defendant pushed someone in an angry fury with the sole intent of inflicting harm on the victim.

  • Depraved Disregard Murder: This refers to incidents in which death comes from an excessive indifference to human life. In other words, the defendant undertakes a reckless conduct they know has a high potential of causing death, like as discharging a handgun into a crowd.

Sentencing and Penalties of 2nd Degree Murder

Second-degree murder has a range of penalties that vary from state to state. In general, the sentence issued in most countries is 15 years to life imprisonment.

The sentence depends on the facts of the offence and any aggravating and mitigating circumstances that apply.

The punishment may be reduced if the offender shows real regret and has no prior criminal history, but it can be increased if the offender commits many murders or acts with great severity toward the murder.

What does Third-Degree Murder means?

Third-degree murder is the least serious kind of murder that only occurs in three US states: Florida, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Non-premeditated killing with the goal of causing physical injury rather than death is what most people mean by this term.

The Elements of Third-Degree Murder

Criminal law stipulates that the following factors must be present in a murder of the third degree:

  • Intent to Injury: For third-degree murder accusations, there must be some intent to inflict harm to the victim. However, there is no intent to murder. All murder cases where there is definite intent to cause death are categorized as 1st or 2nd-degree crimes.

  • No Premeditation: A murder of the third degree cannot be premeditated nor planned in any manner. They are frequently the outcome of committing other lesser offenses or as a result of irresponsible activity.

Examples of 3rd Degree Murder

For a murder to be classed as a third-degree murder relies on the particular legislation for each state that employs this category. Here is a look at some examples:

  • Unintended Offense Murder: In Florida, a person may be prosecuted with third-degree murder if they kill another human being while committing an unintentional felony. Certain drug offenses are an exception to this rule.

  • Depraved Indifference Murder: In Minnesota and Pennsylvania, a depraved indifference murder is categorized as a third-degree murder instead of a second-degree murder. This is when the killing is a consequence of doing a hazardous conduct the defendant knows might cause death, also known as a negligent matricide.

  • Drug Delivery in Death: In Minnesota, the killing of a human being by directly or indirectly giving the victim with drugs is categorized as third-degree murder. In Pennsylvania, this used to be a crime, but it is now considered a distinct one.

Sentencing and Penalties of Third-Degree Murder

If the offense was committed in another state, the maximum penalty for third-degree murder is a mandatory life term in that state.

In Minnesota, the maximum sentence is 25 years in jail and a fine of $40,000, in Pennsylvania, the maximum sentence is 40 years in prison, and in Florida, the maximum sentence is 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. As you can see, while being a minor offence it still carries a hefty sentence.

The Key Difference Between First, Second, and Third-Degree Murders

The key variations between in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree murder are found in the gravity of the crime and the severity of the sentencing:

Severity of the Crime: First-degree murder is the most severe crime and is always planned and done out with purpose.

Second-degree murder is committed with knowledge of the victim’s identity, but without any premeditation on the part of the perpetrator.

Finally, third-degree murder is thus the lowest level of criminal matricide with no intent to kill and no premeditation.

Punishment Intensity: Punishment is proportional to the gravity of the offense. As such, first-degree murders carry the highest sentences followed by second-degree murder, then by third-degree murder.

Even though it is the lowest category of murder, third-degree homicides are nevertheless punishable by law.

Fetal killing

It was not deemed murder under common law when an attack on a pregnant woman led to a stillbirth.

Remedies were restricted to criminal sanctions for the attack on the mother and civil action for loss of the expected economic services of the lost child, for emotional pain and suffering, or both.

With the widespread adoption of laws protecting foetal life, the aggressor may be prosecuted with that violation, but the punishment was generally merely a fine and a few days in prison.

State laws vary on the stage of development at which the unborn child is protected when they approve “fetal-matricide” legislation, making it murder to kill one.

Types of Manslaughter

Here two types are discussed:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter

  • Involuntary Manslaughter

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter charges may be applied rather than murder charges when a defendant commits a murder owing to being triggered by a strong emotional reaction.

This is commonly referred to as a “crime of passion.” This accusation may also be brought against the defendant if the distribution of a Schedule III, IV, or V restricted drug results in the death of another person without the defendant’s knowledge.

The maximum penalty for voluntary manslaughter is 15 years in jail and a fine of $30,000 or both.

Involuntary Manslaughter

A killing committed as a result of carelessness is known as involuntary manslaughter. For example, mistaking a human as an animal when hunting and shooting him or her.

Involuntary manslaughter charges may be brought against someone who kills a child due to negligence. Vehicular matricide in which the careless operation of a vehicle results in the death of another may also be prosecuted in this manner.

Maximum punishments for these sorts of offences may include up to 10 years in jail and $20,000 in fines.


The specifics of a murder or manslaughter case will determine the available defences.

For example, self-defense may be a defence that might be raised if the victim sought to injure the defendant who replied in like in order to avoid his or her own death.

Innocence is a defence where the defendant did not really murder the victim.

Other defences, such as drunkenness or poor self-defense, may not totally absolve the defendant of responsibility but may lessen his or her level of responsibility.

The laws for the state happened in for a more thorough knowledge of the categorizations and accompanying sanctions, since there is some overlap between the laws in several states.

Frequently Asked Questions

People usually ask many questions about Third-degree murder. A few of them are discussed below:

1. Which is worse 1st 2nd and 3rd degree murders?

Merely committing a random act of violence is not a first-degree murder, which is the most heinous murder for which the death penalty is applicable.

Murders in the second degree are less serious, but they still entail the intention to hurt or kill another person. Third-degree murders are the lowest category of criminal matricide but may nevertheless result in heavy punishments.

2. How long is a life sentence?

A life sentence may run anything from 15 years to the rest of the person’s natural life, depending on where they are convicted. Oftentimes, a serious offence like murder will result in a life sentence without the chance of release.

3. In Canada, what is the bare minimum penalty for manslaughter?

A person convicted of manslaughter faces a range of punishments, ranging from probation to the death penalty. It is not an automatic life sentence for manslaughter, as it is for murder. In circumstances when the offence includes a weapon, the minimum sentence is four years

4. How long is life without parole?

No one condemned to life without parole has ever been freed on parole, in California or in any other state. Those who are condemned to life without parole (LWOP) spend the remainder of their days in prison, and many of them die there. All penalties, including the death penalty, are equally open to mercy from the governor.

5. What is the justification for judges to impose prison terms of over a century?

Different countries have different sentencing regulations, however in the United States, persons are sentenced to long jail terms because of repeated offences committed by the same person.

6. Why do inmates linger on death row?

Completion of inmates in the United States might take years because of the lengthy and cumbersome appeals process required by law.

7. What is the sentence for treason in Canada?

The sentence for treason is life imprisonment; usual parole conditions apply. Acts of high treason or treason committed by Canadians or those who owe loyalty to Her Majesty in right of Canada are punished under Canadian criminal law, even if they were committed outside of Canada.

8. How many years do u get for manslaughter?

Murder carries a punishment of life in prison without parole for the perpetrator. However, a lower sentence than imprisonment for life may be given for murder. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail.

9. Does Australia have involuntary manslaughter?

The punishment for manslaughter in Australia is a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment in the Supreme Court. This kind of punishment is usually reserved only for the most egregious criminals.

10. Do they still do final dinners for death row?

Not many jurisdictions provide last meals for condemned criminals, but when Georgia accomplished a quadruple murderer in 2016, prisons authorities revealed the last meal of a condemned inmate before their death.


This explains why there are only three different classifications for third-degree murder in the US legal system, based on the variances in state jurisdictional rules.