Heat of Passion Law and Legal Definition

Heat of passion is a criminal defendant's excuse for lacking the premeditation element of a crime due to sudden anger or heartbreak. The defense is usually raised in murder or attempted murder cases, when a spouse or lover finds his/her partner sexually involved with another and shoots or stabs one or both of the coupled pair. To successfully raise the defense, the defendant must have acted immediately after the provocation, without time to "cool off". If the element of premediation is eliminated, the charges may be lessened from provable homicide to manslaughter with no death penalty and limited prison terms. The impassioned defendant may even be acquitted.