Difference Between 1st Degree Murder and 2nd Degree Murder (With Table)

A crime is an illicit act or an act that is against the laws and is punishable by the rules and regulations of the respective state or country. There’s a lot of acts that are categorised as criminal offence and those are robbery, arson, cybercrime, violence, kidnapping, assault, extortion, homicide, murder, and others. Murder is also categorised into three i.e., 1st degree, 2nd degree and 3rd-degree murder.

1st Degree Murder vs 2nd Degree Murder

The difference between 1st degree and 2nd-degree murder is that in 1st-degree murder the act is cynical and it ends up in killing the victim i.e., it is intentional; whereas, in 2nd-degree murder, there is no physical harm or killing of the victim. It is generally robbery or burglary.

1st-degree murder has the most serious punishments compared to any other crime. 1st-degree murder is a heinous crime that ends up taking the life of the victim. This criminal act is punishable by law but the law on 1st-degree murder varies from state to state and country.

While 2nd-degree murder is not premeditated and intentional like 1st-degree murder. Second-degree murder also refers to the death of an individual caused by negligent or reckless conduct. It is taken under the consideration of felony crime and it can also include burglary or robbery. Various states and countries do not consider felony crime under 2nd-degree murder, while some do. Therefore, it varies accordingly.

Comparison Table Between 1st Degree Murder and 2nd Degree Murder

Parameters of Comparison1st Degree Murder2nd Degree Murder
Casualty The death caused or the murder committed is intentional. The death or murder committed (if any) is unintentional.
Other inclusive actionsIt only includes serious homicide, manslaughter, stabbing, shooting. All of these causes death. It also includes murder but it generally involves robbery or burglary or murder committed accidentally too.
Mindset Of DefendantProves that they have a sinister mindset.They do have a cynical mindset but they do not possess the sinister mindset of murdering.
PunishmentIt is seriously punishable by law and has no release. It is punishable with a certain tenure but may have a release on conditions.
Tenure or Act It can be death penalty or life imprisonment. It may have life imprisonment or, 10 to 25 years of jail.

What is a 1st Degree Murder?

First-degree murder often called premeditated murder or capital murder involves killing the victim intentionally. In simpler terms, the liquidator pre-planned of killing the victim, and gets successful with his plan. Pre-planned or premeditation killing doesn’t necessarily have to be planned a month, week or day before the killing, thinking about killing an individual even a few minutes or seconds prior is also counted as 1st-degree murder.

Following is the circumstance that considers a murder as first-degree include – A liquidation or killing happened while the accused was committing another crime. A person can be charged or accused of first-degree murder if, while committing a vicious crime, the victim or anyone other than the targeted dies.

In such cases, the killer or accused may have to face first-degree murder charges, even if he/she is not the person who is guilty of killing the victim. A person who’s accused of 1st-degree murder have very serious punishments and it varies in different states and countries. In some states or countries, the judgement for first-degree murder can result in the death penalty or life imprisonment without any release or parole.

Some states and countries have withdrawn the death penalty and can only sentence the accused for life imprisonment. An accused facing a judgement for first-degree murder is also authorized to raise squabble in his defense i.e., he/she can file a petition or ask for legal help.

What is a 2nd Degree Murder?

Second-degree murder is defined as intentional murder without any premeditation or which was not pre-planned. The defendant only intended to cause bodily harm, and verifies an extreme unconcern to human life, i.e., ends up killing the victim.

2nd-degree murder charges can be based on the following: Unintentional killing – These types of killings are not pre-planned on the side of the killer. The murder occurs at the moment, the killer acquires the intention to kill the victim, but it happens in the last moment when the killer had no plan to commit any murder.

The intention of causing bodily harm – Second situation/condition that comes under second-degree murder is when the defendant intends only to cause serious harm to the body of the victim but is aware that murder could result from this act. Felony murder – In some states or countries murder or killings that happen during the task of another felony is also classified as second-degree murders, some states or countries categorize these types of activities or killings as murders in the first degree.

The punishment under 2nd-degree murder also varies in different states and countries. In many countries, the killer or the accused is sentenced to 10 to 15 years or even 25 years of imprisonment, and in some countries, it can be even life imprisonment depending upon the seriousness and depth of the case.

Main Difference Between 1st Degree Murder and 2nd Degree Murder

  1. 1st degree murder is an act with intent, whereas 2nd-degree murder is unintentional.
  2. 1st degree murder is pre-planned or premeditated, whereas 2nd-degree murder is generally unplanned and is with no will to kill.
  3. 1st degree murder is a very vicious crime and the defendant committing such a crime has a very sinister mindset, these are in the majority of times serial killers or murderers, whereas 2nd-degree murder is lawfully a vicious crime too but the defendant had no intention in committing murder.
  4. 1st degree murder is seriously punishable by law i.e., death penalty or in some states or countries as life imprisonment, whereas 2nd-degree murder isn’t seriously punishable as 1st degree i.e., 10 to 25 years of jail or in some states or countries as life imprisonment too.
  5. 1st degree murder does not include any robbery, whereas 2nd-degree murder occurs with the intention of robbery or burglary.


1st-degree murder and 2nd-degree murder both are punishable by law but the punishment and the tenure of the punishment differ in various states and countries. Both the actions are severe crimes and cannot be graded as a mistake or less-severe accident.

1st-degree murder is the most heinous and extreme vicious act anyone can commit. 2nd-degree murder does not include the pre-planned sentiment of committing a murder, making it comparatively less seriously punishable by the law. But in the end, both the actions are punishable under the law and are serious charges.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589871X19300555
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1977-12984-001
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