Murder is one of the gravest crimes you can commit in Minnesota – and anywhere else in the country, for that matter. Most people easily comprehend that murder is a criminal offense, but many aren’t clear on the degrees of murder and what makes them different.
A news example of contrasting murder charges took place recently in Minneapolis. A man was charged with second-degree murder after an argument in a mall escalated to a fatal shooting. When the fight moved outside, the suspect took out a gun and shot the victim several times, continuing even after the victim was on the ground.
Why was this mall shooter charged with second-degree murder and not third? Here’s what you need to know about second-and third-degree murder charges in this state.
Considerations in Murder Charges
A few factors influence murder charges in Minnesota. One factor is premeditation, when a person plans out the crime beforehand, as opposed to acting spontaneously.
The intent is another factor. Generally, to determine intent in a murder case, you ask the question: would a reasonable person would expect their actions to lead to the loss of another person’s life in this situation?
Second-degree murder doesn’t require premeditation. First-degree murder does. Instead, second-degree murder charges require intent, and then the type of charge divides into two sections depending on other facts.
Third-degree murder doesn’t require intent or premeditation to be charged.
Second-Degree Murder in Minnesota
In Minnesota, for someone to be charged with second-degree murder, intent doesn’t necessarily have to play a part in the crime. Someone can be charged with second-degree murder if they:
- Kill another person without premeditation but with intent
- Kill another person unintentionally as they attempt to commit or commit a drive-by shooting
- Kill another person unintentionally while using force or violence to commit another felony
- Kill another person unintentionally when attempting to injure that person
If accused of second-degree murder and found guilty, you can face up to 40 years of prison time in the state of Minnesota.
Third Degree Murder in Minnesota
In order to be charged with third-degree murder in Minnesota, intent to kill is not required. Instead, the language and reasoning for this crime are as follows: “a depraved mind commits murder as they act without regard for human life”.
Actions that warrant third-degree murder could be firing a gun into a crowd or driving a car into a group of people. It’s basically an action that results in the loss of life, perpetrated through a dangerous act demonstrating indifference to human life.
The Minnesota mall murder case mentioned at the beginning of this article highlights the real difference between second-and third-degree murder – its intent. The man accused may not have set out to murder someone. But any reasonable person knows that continuing to shoot a recumbent victim would result in their death.
A conviction for third-degree murder can send you to prison for up to 25 years.
Defenses Against Murder Charges
Whether you’re charged with third-degree murder or second-degree murder, it’s vital to build a solid defense in court.
Remember, under the law, you are innocent until proven guilty. The burden rests on the prosecution to show you acted in a way that justifies the charge. Your job is to mount a defense that questions the prosecution’s assertion.
Usable defenses against murder charges really depend on the circumstances in the case. If self-defense was a factor, that must be made known in court.
The defense can also lean on your innocence if you didn’t actually murder anyone.
Another viable defense maintains some culpability in the crime but reduces the charges against the defendant. For example, you may admit that you did strike or shoot the person killed in an attempt to defend yourself from an attack, but you didn’t intend to kill them.
Murder charges should be taken seriously. Make sure to understand what these charges mean, no matter what degree. You are innocent until proven guilty in the court of law and have the right to a proper defense.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.