Louisiana Homicide Laws – First Degree and Second Degree Murder

Under Louisiana statutory law, murder charges can be either first degree or second degree.  The difference between the two is that first degree carries the possibility of the death penalty.

Punishment for First Degree Vs. Second Degree

If you are convicted of First Degree Murder in Louisiana under the capital portion of the statute, the punishment can be either death or life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. The jury makes the decision whether the punishment is death or life imprisonment.   Second Degree Murder carries the penalty of life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. The sentence for second degree murder is automatic — there will be a delay, but you will receive a life sentence if convicted of 2nd degree murder.

The Definition of First Degree Murder

First degree murder can be the charge for any of the following conditions:

  1. The killing of a person with “specific Intent” while committing certain felony crimes.  This is known as the felony murder statute. The felony crimes include:  aggravated rape, forcible 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, simple robbery, cruelty to juveniles, second degree cruelty to juveniles, and terrorism.
  2. Killing a certain type of person, including police officers, children under the age of 12, and people over the age of 65, with specific intent.
  3. Killing more than one person

The Definition of Second Degree Murder

Second degree murder can be the charge in any of the following conditions:

  1. The offender has the specific intent to kill or inflict bodily harm, but is not also committing a felony crime
  2. A person in the process of committing a felony crime kills someone, but without specific intent to kill. For example, if the offender is engaged in an armed robbery and someone dies during the crime, the charge could be second degree murder, even if the death was accidental or unintentional.
  3. A drug dealer distributes a controlled dangerous substance listed in the schedule I – IV in the uniformed dangerous substances law (examples are cocaine and heroin) and that distribution is the direct cause of the death of the recipient who consumed the drugs.

Both first and second degree murder are extremely serious felony crimes.  Persons convicted of first degree murder face at best life in prison, and possibly the death penalty.  A conviction of second degree murder carries a life sentence with no possibility of ever getting out of prison.  For more information about defense against first and second degree murder charges, contact my Louisiana criminal defense law practice for a free consultation.