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Understanding the different types of murder charges in North Carolina

In North Carolina, murder is the unlawful intentional killing of a human being by another. The defendant must commit the act with reckless disregard for the life of another or with the intent to harm or kill the person.

North Carolina law outlines three different types of murder charges: first-degree murder, felony murder and second-degree murder.

First-degree murder

The most serious homicide offense is first-degree murder, also known as premeditated murder. This is a deliberate killing. The death of the person can result from weapons of mass destruction, imprisonment, poison, torture or any other premeditated, deliberate and willful killing.

Those convicted of first-degree may face life in prison without parole or even the death penalty.

Felony murder

Felony murder is a type of first-degree murder where a person is accidentally killed during the commission of another crime. For example, felonies such as burglary, robbery or kidnapping could result in felony murder charges if someone dies during the crime. An accomplice to a felony murder would also have a first-degree murder charge.

Second-degree murder

Unlike first-degree murder, murder in the second degree is not a premeditated killing. Instead, second-degree murder is the death of another person resulting from the defendant’s reckless disregard for human life. Shooting a gun randomly into a crowded room that causes another human’s death is reckless behavior that demonstrates an extreme indifference to human life.

Because a conviction of any of the above murder charges carries severe penalties (even death) in North Carolina, seeking appropriate legal counsel is a heavy decision.