Minnesota Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is an intentional killing, but is less serious than first-degree murder because some malicious factors aren’t present. Both first and second-degree murder in Minnesota have aspects of the “felony murder rule.” Felony murder is when you kill a person during the commission of another felony, such as rape or burglary.

Minnesota Third-Degree Murder

Minnesota also has a third-degree murder statute between second-degree murder and the two levels of manslaughter. This type of murder is not intentional and therefore is not as severely punished as first and some second-degree murder killings. However, the behavior is so atrocious that it isn’t mitigated or lowered to manslaughter in the first or second degree (voluntary and involuntary manslaughter).

Minnesota Second and Third Degree Murder Statutes

The following table details the second and third degree murder laws in Minnesota.

Code Sections

Minnesota Statutes Sections 609.19 – Murder in the Second Degree and 609.195 – Murder in the Third Degree

What’s Prohibited?

Minnesota law prohibits intentional and unintentional killings under most circumstances. Those killings prohibited as second-degree murder include:

  • Killing a human intentionally, but without premeditation (not thinking about or preparing for before)
  • Killing a human while committing or attempting a drive-by shooting
  • Causing someone’s death without intending the death of anyone, while committing a felony other than criminal sexual conduct (rape or sexual assault which would be first degree murder) or a drive-by shooting
  • Causing a death unintentionally, while intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict great physical harm on the victim when the murderer is currently restrained by a protection order (including for domestic violence, harassment, divorce, or any similar protection order) and the victim was the protected party in that order

Third-degree murder in Minnesota is causing someone’s death by one of two ways:

  • A depraved heart or mind murder, which places others in eminent danger of death and disregarding human life (such as shooting a gun into a crowd for fun, but not intending to kill anyone)
  • Causing someone’s death by selling, giving away, or administering a Schedule I or II controlled substance (such as selling someone adulterated heroin that kills them)
Penalty

Murder in the second degree receives not more than 40 years imprisonment in Minnesota. Third-degree murder is sentenced to up to 25 years. If the death was caused by a Schedule I or II drug sale or exchange, a fine of up to $40,000 is possible.

If a person is convicted of 2nd or 3rd degree murder and was convicted of a heinous crime (murder in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree, assault in the first degree, or criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, or third degrees, and some murder attempts) and finished that sentence within 15 years of this murder, the court will mandatorily sentence them to the maximum possible sentence (40 or 25 years).

Defenses

The best defense to any murder charge will depend on the facts. Among the possible defenses are innocence, insanity, and self-defense. For second and third degree murders, intoxication isn’t a good defense as there doesn’t have to be an intent to kill, therefore, there’s no particular state of mind needed that the alcohol would’ve prevented a drunk person from creating.

Civil Case If you or a loved one are accused of causing anyone’s death, it’s important to remember the family of the victim can sue you for wrongful death, even if not convicted of a crime related to the death. This famously happened to O.J. Simpson, who wasn't convicted of the murders of his wife or her friend, but he did lose the wrongful death case. This is possible because civil cases have a lower standard of proof (preponderance of the evidence, which is basically more likely than not) than criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt).

If someone sues you for a wrongful death, you should immediately speak with an experienced personal injury defense attorney.

Note: State laws change frequently. It's important to verify the laws you’re researching.

Research the Law

Related Resources

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.