Sentences For First-Degree and Aggravated Murder
While all murder is obviously serious, first-degree murder is the most serious and given to those who maliciously and willfully kill another person. First-degree murder charges vary between states, but often they need some sort of premeditation and intention to kill someone.
The penalties for first-degree murder will vary in each state. In some states, first-degree murder charges will be sentenced 25 years to life and really serious types of first-degree murder may even attract the death penalty. Each state will handle the charging of first-degree murder in their own way, but all states will have aggravating factors that can increase the prison sentence.
What Are Aggravating Factors?
Aggravating factors are things that could result in additional time on the sentence. Murders can be very different, and some are more heinous than others and deserve a longer prison sentence. Some of the following factors will be considered when determining if aggravating factors are present:
- How the murder was perpetrated (if there was cruelty or extreme violence used)
- If explosives were used
- If the crime was committed by a gang or for the purpose of a gang
- Other crimes that were committed at the same time as the murder
- The identity of the victim (murdering members of law enforcement or the process of justice will be aggravating factors)
- If the defendant had financial gain as a result of the killing (inheritance, etc.)
First-Degree Murder: Life in Prison and the Death Penalty
In many states, life prison sentences and the death penalty may be given if there are aggravating factors. 31 out of 50 states still have the death penalty for aggravated first-degree murder, as does the federal government.
The law, prosecutors, and judges consider a lot of factors before giving life in prison or death penalties. In most states, it is not handed out for every first-degree murder, and there needs to be specific aggravating factors present. People who have committed first-degree murder may avoid the death penalty if there are mitigating factors present. These could be:
- The defendant’s age
- The defendant’s criminal history
- If other people were involved in the crime
- If the defendant was coerced or threatened
- The defendant’s mental capacity
- The role the defendant played
In most states, a life prison sentence does not give the inmate the possibility of probation or early release. Someone given life in prison will not be released from prison under any conditions.