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Hawaii First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder is the most serious form of criminal homicide in Hawaii. In most states, a conviction for first-degree murder requires the offender to have killed willfully and with premeditation. However, in Hawaii, a person can commit first-degree murder by intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another under any of the circumstances outlined in the table below.

Code Section

Hawaii Revised Statutes section 707-701: Murder in the First Degree

What's Prohibited?

Intentionally or knowingly causing the death of:
  • More than one person in the same or separate incident
  • A law enforcement officer, judge, or prosecutor arising out of the performance of official duties
  • A person the offender knows is a witness in a criminal prosecution and the killing is related to the person's status as a witness
  • A person by a hired killer (here both the person hired and the person responsible for hiring the killer are liable)
  • A person while the defendant was imprisoned
  • A person from whom the defendant has been restrained, by order of any court, from contacting, threatening, or physically abusing
  • A person who is being protected by a police officer ordering the offender to leave the premises of that protected person, or
  • A person the offender knows is a witness in a family court proceeding and the killing is related to the person's status as a witness


First-degree murder (and attempted first-degree murder) is a felony offense that can be punished by life in prison.

In some states first-degree murder is punishable by death, however, Hawaii has abolished the death penalty.

What's the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

The element of malice, the intention to kill or cause serious bodily injury, is the key distinction between murder and manslaughter. In most states murder is the unlawful killing of another with malice, while manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without malice.

In some situations, a prosecution for murder (either first or second-degree) can be reduced from murder to the lesser offense of manslaughter if the killing was committed under the influence of an extreme mental or emotional disturbance. For example, if a woman comes home to find her husband in bed with another woman and kills him in the heat of passion, then the woman may potentially be tried for manslaughter rather than murder.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Hawaii's first-degree murder law contact a local criminal defense lawyer.

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