Third Degree Murder

Third Degree Murder.

Murder Charges in Minnesota.

Minnesota has several degrees of murder that they can charge a defendant. The state also has other types of laws that involve the unlawful killing of another that do not rise to the murder level.

First Degree Murder.

Like in many other states, Minnesota considers first-degree murder to be the most serious and heinous form of murder. Due to this classification, not all murder charges are filed as first-degree murder. First-degree murder charges in Minnesota have aggravating factors. Sometimes first-degree murder is based on the identity of the victim. For example killing a spouse after continued domestic abuse, killing a child, killing a cop, killing a judge or killing a witness to thwart his or her testimony in another case are often charged as first-degree murder. In other cases, first-degree charges arise due to the defendant’s conduct. For example, the premeditated murder in which the defendant considers, plans or prepares for the killing beforehand or killing someone during a sexual assault, burglary, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, arson or act of terrorism may be charged as a first-degree murder case.

Since Minnesota does not have the death penalty, the harshest punishment for those convicted of first-degree murder is life in prison. An element of the first-degree murder statute is the intent to kill.

Second Degree Murder.

Second-degree murder can be an intentional killing, but it is not as serious as first-degree murder. Second degree murder can be charged when a defendant intentionally kills another human being but the murder is not premediated. Second-degree murder may result when a person kills out of an intense emotional response or impulse. Additionally, killing someone during a drive-by shooting, killing someone during the commission of a crime that is not sexual assault or killing someone unintentionally while intended to inflict great physical harm to a victim for whom an order of protection was obtained can result in second-degree murder charges. Second-degree murder has a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

Third Degree Murder.

Third-degree murder falls between manslaughter and second-degree murder charges. This murder is not based on having the intent to kill. Third-degree murder is often charged as a depraved heart or mind crime. This charge can arise when a person fires a gun in a crowd without intending to kill anyone, for example. Murder is charged when a person is killed and the defendant has an indifference to the sanctity of human life. This charge may also result if a person sells bad drugs. The maximum penalty for murder is up to 25 years in prison. If the death resulted because of a Schedule I or II drug sale, a fine of up to $40,000 may result.

Voluntary Manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter charges may be imposed rather than murder charges when a defendant commits a murder due to being provoked by an intense emotional response. This is often referred to as a “crime of passion.” Other situations may result in this charge when the defendant unintentionally causes another person’s death because of distributing a Schedule III, IV or V controlled substance. Voluntary manslaughter carries with it a maximum punishment of 15 years imprisonment and fines up to $30,000.

Involuntary Manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is essentially a killing based on negligence. For example, mistaking a person as an animal while hunting and shooting him or her. Child neglect that results in death may be charged as involuntary manslaughter. Vehicular homicide in which the negligent operation of a vehicle results in the death of another can also be charged in this way. Maximum penalties for these types of crimes can include up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.


The potential defenses for murder or manslaughter charges depend on the particular circumstances of the case. For example, self-defense may be a defense that can be raised if the victim tried to harm the defendant who responded in kind in order to prevent his or her own death. Innocence is a defense when the defendant did not actually kill the victim. Other defenses may not alleviate the defendant completely of culpability but may reduce the degree of culpability, such as intoxication or imperfect self-defense.

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