Second Degree Murder Law and Legal Definition

Second degree murder is a death which results from an assault which is likely to cause death. Second degree murder is distinguished from first degree murder, which is a premeditated, intentional killing or results from a vicious crime such as arson, rape or armed robbery. Second degree murder is not murder committed in the "heat of passion".

It may be considered a crime that falls in between first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Murder in the second degree includes homicides committed with malice aforethought, that lack deliberate premeditation, extreme atrocity or cruelty, or participation in a felony punishable by life imprisonment. To prove murder in the second degree, the state must establish that the perpetrator committed the killing with malice. As with murder in the first degree, malice means an intent to inflict grievous bodily injury without legal justification, or an intent to act in a manner likely to cause death or serious injury. The malice element does not require an intent to cause a death. Laws defining second degree murder vary by state.