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What Is Premeditated Murder?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Premeditated murder is a murder committed by someone who planned ahead. The laws surrounding premeditated murder vary, but as a general rule it is treated as the most serious form of murder because of the fact that the murderer planned to kill beforehand. This is contrasted with situations in which people murder by accident, as for example in the heat of an argument. Usually, when premeditation is involved, a murder is treated as a first degree murder, which carries the stiffest penalties.

Premeditation can take a number of forms. Sometimes it involves working out the most effective way to kill someone, ranging from selecting a method which is likely to work on the first try to tracking someone's habits in order to pick an opportune moment. Additionally, premeditation can include thinking ahead to try and evade capture. For example, if someone obtains an unregistered gun and uses gloves to handle it, she or he has clearly both planned a murder method and taken steps to avoid capture and thus is planning to commit a premeditated murder.

In the case of first degree murder, in addition to premeditation, the murderer must also have “malice,” a desire to kill, along with deliberation, meaning that the murderer was fully aware that his or her actions would lead to death or serious injury. Proof of malice can include something like using a deadly weapon in an argument, statements made which indicated hatred for the victim, or statements made during questioning.

It can sometimes be difficult to prove premeditated murder, and defense attorneys take advantage of this when working with their clients. They may not want to dispute whether or not the client is responsible for a death, but will opt to try and reduce the severity of the charges. For example, if one spouse kills another, the defense might argue that the murder was accidental and occurred in the heat of the moment, not with deliberation or malice.

Certain types of murder methods are usually taken as automatic indicators that a premeditated murder was involved. For example, the use of poison requires premeditation because a murderer must introduce the poison to the victim with the awareness that the poison will kill.

Premeditated murder is not the only form of murder which can be severely punished. Felony murder, in which a murder takes place during the commission of a crime, can also be very serious. Likewise, the murder of a member of law enforcement is often treated very seriously by the judicial system.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon149792 — On Feb 05, 2011

Everyone can commit a murder no matter what kind of situation you are in. We all have that in us. It's just that some of us know how to control this problem.

By BioNerd — On Feb 05, 2011


I think that we shouldn't think of people as "psychopaths" or non-psychopaths. There is a sort of cline, a scale of in-betweens. People can become "psychopaths" over time, and have varying degrees of willingness to commit a crime such as murder. It can happen to anybody, so keep yourself in check. Make sure you don't make a habit of thinking malicious thoughts.

By Renegade — On Feb 03, 2011


These assumptions about human nature seem rather cynical. I believe that people are ultimately good at heart and that it is external circumstances and a difficult culture which causes them to commit actions such as murder. Except for the occasional psychopath.

By arod2b42 — On Feb 03, 2011


I doubt that people will ever be able to live without a threat of harm for doing wrong. Certain people just can't learn to get along. Society necessarily has murderers and psychopaths, especially in times of great difficulty. Every "normal" person could one day find themselves committing heinous crimes, surprising all who know them.

By BioNerd — On Feb 02, 2011

Every has hated people at one time or another. In olden days you would challenge someone who had offended you to a duel. Nowadays, we are unable to do this, and must avoid violence at any cost. This is a necessary suppressor to the evil heart of mankind. We are constantly looking for ways to get ahead of each other and would even be willing to kill for our own sake. Let's hope that people will one day be able to live peacefully without the necessity of rules and punishment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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