Universal Malice Law and Legal Definition

Universal malice is a state of mind of a person who determines to take a life on slight provocation, without knowing or caring who may be the victim. To constitute universal malice, there must be a determination on the part of the defendant "to take life" without knowing or caring who the victim may be. The textbook examples of universal malice are generally such acts as shooting into an occupied house or driving an automobile into a crowd. In each instance, the defendant's act endangers the lives of many with a high and obvious probability that death or, at least, serious injury would result.

In Napier v. State, 357 So. 2d 1011 (Ala. 1978), it was held that “By universal malice is not meant a malicious purpose to take the life of all persons. It is that depravity of the human heart, which determines to take life upon slight or insufficient provocation, without knowing or caring who may be the victim. The supreme depravity shown in this so-called universal malice, is considered as the equivalent of the strong adjectives, willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated, which characterize the first class of murder in the first degree.”