Delaware First-Degree Murder
A homicide occurs anytime that one person takes the life of another person. In Delaware, there are six types of criminal homicide: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, murder by abuse or neglect, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and vehicular homicide. This article provides a brief overview of Delaware's most harshly punished form of criminal homicide: first-degree murder.
|Delaware Code section 636: Murder in the First Degree|
|First-degree murder can be committed in any of the following ways:
|First-degree murder is a class A felony.
The Felony-Murder Rule
As you can see from the chart above, first-degree murder can be committed in a variety of different ways in Delaware. One of the main ways is via the felony murder rule. In Delaware, the felony murder rule applies to cases in which someone dies during or shortly after the commission (or attempted commission) of a felony due to the offender's reckless conduct.
A murder conviction generally requires that the offender killed intentionally, however, under the felony murder rule an offender can be convicted of murder even if they didn't intent to cause the death. Here the state is punishing dangerous behavior that put others at risk during the commission of a felony.
Killing Under Extreme Emotional Distress – Mitigating Murder to Manslaughter
In some cases, a killing that meets the qualifications for first-degree murder will be downgraded to the less crime of manslaughter if the offender acted under "extreme emotional distress." In Delaware, the fact that the accused intentionally caused the death of another person while under the influence of extreme emotional distress is a mitigating circumstance sufficient to reduce the crime to manslaughter.
The offender must prove that there is a reasonable explanation or excuse for the existence of the extreme emotional distress. The classic example of killing under extreme emotional distress is the offender who comes home to find his wife in bed with her lover and kills the lover in the heat of passion.
- First-Degree Murder Defenses
- Delaware's Second-Degree Murder Law (section 635)
- Delaware's Murder by Abuse or Neglect Law (section 633 – 634)
State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Delaware's first-degree murder law contact a local criminal defense lawyer.
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