Murder involves homicide and malice. Homicide is the killing of a human being and malice is the intent to kill another human being. In Washington, there are different degrees of murder. For example, first degree murder is a criminal charge where someone commits homicide with malice, deliberation, and premeditation. An individual who is accused of murder, may not be charged with first degree murder, but the lesser charge of second degree murder.

How is Murder in the Second Degree Defined in Washington State?

Murder in the second degree is the intent to cause another person’s death with premeditation. As well as a death of another person caused during the course of the defendant committing or attempting to commit a felony.

What is Premeditation?

Premeditation refers to someone planning a homicide before the killing.

Can I Be Accused of Second Degree Murder if I Committed Another Crime and Someone Died?

It’s possible. Washington State can charge a person with murder in the second degree if they attempted to or committed a felony and during the felony, a homicide occurs. The death must be someone other than individuals participating in the felonious crime. This is known as “felony murder.”

What If I Didn’t Participate in the Felony Crime?

The defendant can still be charged with second degree murder, if the death happened while helping to further the felony or fleeing from the crime.

Are There Any Defenses to Felony Murder?

Yes. Possible defenses to avoid a felony murder charge include the defendant:

  • Didn’t commit, command, request, solicit, importune, aid, or cause a homicide to occur
  • Had no reason to believe that any of the participants was armed with a weapon at the time of the crime
  • Wasn’t armed with a deadly weapon that could cause an injury

What is the Penalty for this Crime?

A conviction of second degree murder and felony murder is considered a class A felony, and is punishable with life in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me?

Yes, contact an Washington criminal lawyer to learn more about fighting your criminal charge.