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When Is Murder a Federal Crime?

November 11, 2021

The elements that constitute the crime of murder may vary in different legal systems, but generally include the following:

  • The homicide is premeditated, and the perpetrator still commits the relevant behavior even knowing that the relevant behavior will cause the death of others.
  • Even if there is no specific target of murder, the relevant behavior (such as arson in a densely populated place, or detonation of explosives) may be expected to cause the death of others and can therefore be charged.

In most cases, murder is a state crime tried in state courts. However, in some cases, murder is a federal offense prosecuted by a federal court and subject to federal penalties.

Federal Murder Charges

Generally, there are seven situations in which wrongful death completely goes against the laws of the federal government. These includes:

  • The murder involved a federal judge, federal police, or other enforcement officials
  • Assassination of an appointed or elected federal servant (for example, the president, a Congress member, a Supreme Court justice, or a federal judge)
  • A murder involving a close relative of a federal worker or officer
  • The murder committed during a bank robbery
  • A murder that took place on a ship at sea (for example, a ship engaged in international trade under the trade clause of the U.S. Constitution)
  • A murder that has had an impact on the judicial process
  • A murder that took place on federal property (for example, in a national park)

Homicide within federal jurisdiction can be charged as murder in the first degree or murder in the second degree, depending on the situation surrounding the case.

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder refers to those who commit murder illegally and have both “intent to kill” and a “premeditated plan.” It may also involve the killing of police officers, judges, government officials, witnesses, many people, or the death of the victims by cruel methods.

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder isn’t considered pre-meditated and may be caused by the reckless conduct of the defendant. It can be classified into:

  • Unintentional homicide—in this case, the perpetrator may have no knowledge of their homicide or their homicide was not premeditated, planned, or evolving out of righteous indignation.
  • The result of death is not caused by the perpetrator’s dangerous behavior and the perpetrator’s negligence.
  • In some areas of the United States, the laws of drinking and driving, at least repeated drunk driving and resulting death, may lead to a second-degree murder charge.

 Murder in the first degree carries a capital punishment or life imprisonment in federal prison.

According to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, federal second-degree murder charges are associated with any federal prison sentence.

Contact Our Attorneys to Begin Your Defense

It is important to understand the high stakes of federal murder trials. Defense attorneys have a thorough understanding of federal homicide law and will handle your case with the necessary care.

If you or a loved one is charged with murder, contact Chris Lewis & Associates P.C. to speak with an experienced attorney by calling 214-665-6930 or filling out the form below. Meet our attorneys, who will strive to provide you with the best defense and answer all your questions.


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