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What is First Degree Murder?

Anyone who has watched a crime drama on television has probably heard the terms murder, homicide, and manslaughter. These legal concepts are often used by television shows for sensational purposes and boosted ratings, but in reality they identify some of the most serious criminal charges that Tennessee residents can face. When a person’s life is taken in an accident or alleged intentional act, a prosecutor may choose to file charges against an individual based on an alleged homicide.

Depending upon the facts of an alleged homicide, a prosecutor has some options for what charges they can pursue. This post will discuss the crime of first-degree murder, but anyone facing any criminal charges for the death of another person is encouraged to seek legal help from a criminal defense attorney. The information contained in this post should not be read as legal advice or guidance.

First-degree murder in Tennessee covers two situations in which a person dies: when a murder is alleged to be intentional, or when a murder is alleged to have occurred during the commission of a violent felony. An intentional murder is one in which the defendant planned to kill the alleged victim. A death that occurs due to an alleged assault, rape, or other violent crime may be considered to qualify for first-degree murder.

Understanding the degrees and levels of possible murder charges in Tennessee is important because of the state’s sentencing and penalty procedures. A first-degree murder charge may result in a capital sentence if it involves an aggravating factor such as an act of terrorism, a murder-for-pay scheme, or the torture of the alleged victim. Individuals facing first-degree murder can also be sentenced to life in prison for their alleged crimes.

In many cases, prosecutors will seek lesser charges against individuals if they are unsure of if they can meet their burdens of proof for charges of first-degree murder. Lesser charges can still carry heavy penalties, and all individuals facing homicide charges can choose to seek legal support from knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys.