You may have few details about the events that led to your loved one’s arrest, but you have learned police have charged him or her with first degree murder. You may understand what the charge of murder means. However, what is different about a murder charge that is in the first degree?
To understand what is at stake for your loved one, it is important to know what Oklahoma law enforcement has concluded about the role your loved one played in the death of someone else. Charging someone with first degree murder means authorities have a high standard of proof to meet, and this means they believe they have evidence to make such a charge stick.
Understanding the elements of a murder charge
The charge of first degree murder requires an element known as malice aforethought. This means that investigators believe your loved one intentionally caused the death of someone deliberately and with premeditation. The most basic example of this is when someone makes a plan to murder a certain person, lies in wait for that person and carries out the deed. However, there are other circumstances that may qualify as first degree murder, such as:
- Felony murder: When someone dies as the result of a violent crime or an attempt to commit a violent crime, the person committing the crime may be guilty of first-degree murder even if he or she was not the one who caused the death.
- The death of a child: Someone who uses such force on a child as to cause death may be charged with first-degree murder.
- Contract murder: It is first-degree murder to solicit someone to kill another person when the crime is related to the drug trade.
- Law enforcement: Killing a police officer or correctional officer who is in the line of duty may result in a charge of first-degree murder.
Evidence presented in first-degree murder trials is always questionable, especially if the prosecution is relying on witness testimony. However, it is critical that your loved one understand how serious the charges are and seek the most highly skilled legal defense possible. The penalties for a first-degree murder conviction include life in prison or life without parole. Additionally, Oklahoma is one of the few remaining states in which the death penalty is still legal.