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Second Degree Murder in Louisiana

In the past, many people assumed that when a person is arrested and charged with a crime, they probably did it. In the past several years, however, Netflix documentaries and other true crime or investigative documentaries have turned that around. More people are realizing that truthfully, anyone could find themselves in handcuffs.

Perhaps you or a loved one is already facing second degree murder charges. Even if you simply want to understand the charge in case of a future charge, it helps to get to know Louisiana’s specific statutes. Here’s a peek into second degree murder in Louisiana and what it involves.

Second Degree Murder in Louisiana


We offer a Paid Consultation for those who have a friend or family member with a second-degree murder charge or are charged themselves. This can be very helpful to those who just want to have a good discussion about a situation, but don’t necessarily need to hire a lawyer, or aren’t sure if they can afford an attorney.  There are many topics and issues we can help with such as attempted second degree murder, assault with a firearm, intent, elements of the offense, and defenses. Importantly, everything we discuss is confidential. If this is what you need, just click here to schedule a paid consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

What Is a Charge of Second Degree Murder in Louisiana?

Every state defines various charges differently. In Louisiana, there are three possible charges when you cause someone’s death. They include first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter.

There are three sets of circumstances that qualify a homicide as second degree murder. The first is if you are intending to kill someone or cause them serious physical harm but you aren’t committing other felonies in the process. In Louisiana, the “specific intent” to kill or cause harm is another term for premeditation.

The second circumstance for second degree murder is if you kill someone while committing specific other felonies. Those felonies include rape, assault, burglary, kidnapping, arson, assault by drive-by shooting, terrorism, and cruelty to juveniles. If someone dies while you’re committing those crimes, it’s second degree murder even if you didn’t have the intent to kill or harm them.

The third circumstance is more specific. If a drug dealer distributes any schedule I through schedule IV drug and their customer dies because they took the drug, the dealer is charged with second degree murder. 

Common Circumstances for Second Degree Murder

To give you a better understanding of second degree murder, let’s look at some common scenarios that result in this charge. The first is any premeditated murder. John is in love with Mary but Mary is dating Joe. John kills Joe so he can be with Mary.

In another scenario, John gets fired by his boss, Fred. John goes to Fred’s house intending to assault Fred and rob his home as revenge. In the process of the assault, Fred dies.

First Degree Murder vs. Second Degree Murder vs. Manslaugher in Louisiana

As we mentioned, there are three homicide charges in Louisiana: first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter. What’s the difference between them?

For a homicide to be a first degree murder, it must be a premeditated murder that meets one of three specific criteria. The first is if you intentionally kill someone while committing select other felonies.

For instance, if you burglarize a home and decide to wait for the homeowner to return so you can kill them, that’s first degree murder. If you burglarize the home and the homeowner surprises you, resulting in an impromptu knife fight that kills them, it’s second degree murder.

The second criteria for first degree murder is killing specific types of people. Killing a police officer, a child under age 12, or anyone over age 65 is defined as first degree murder. Finally, the third criteria is killing multiple people.

Manslaughter, on the other hand, is a less serious charge than second degree murder. Manslaughter is a death that isn’t premeditated. You might call it a murder “in the heat of the moment” such as a domestic fight that escalates and becomes fatal.

Sentencing for Second Degree Murder in Louisiana

In Louisiana, all people convicted of second degree murder receive the same sentence: life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A first degree murder conviction has two sentencing options: either life in prison or the death penalty. In fact, in some cases when a person’s alleged crime qualifies for first degree murder but the District Attorney doesn’t want the death penalty to be possible, they will charge the person with second degree murder instead.

A manslaughter conviction provides more flexibility in the sentence. It carries a sentence of 0-40 years in prison.

Best Defenses for Second Degree Murder in Louisiana

If you are charged with second degree murder, what is the best way to defend yourself? It depends on the circumstances and the case, but there are a few paths.

One option is to present evidence that the murder wasn’t premeditated. If you weren’t committing other select felonies at the time, a lack of premeditation would reduce the charge to manslaughter. For instance, this could be a strong defense if you didn’t bring the murder weapon; the weapon was already on the scene.

Another defense option is to argue that someone else may have committed the murder, not you. You don’t need enough evidence to prove someone else’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You only need enough evidence that a reasonable person can conclude that someone else could be the killer.

Ultimately, however, your defense will depend on the many details of your case. Each case is unique in the criteria that makes it a second degree murder and in the evidence against the alleged, so every case will differ.

What to Do if You’re Charged with Second Degree Murder in Louisiana

If you or your loved one is facing a charge of second degree murder in Louisiana, the most important step you can take is to call a knowledgeable attorney. Contact a criminal defense attorney who has specialized experience in defending against homicide charges.

Attorney Carl Barkemeyer and our skilled legal team specialize in criminal defense in Louisiana. We have the advanced experience and individualized attention your case needs, including experience with second degree murder in particular. We’ll be able to assess the best way to defend you both before and during a trial. Call our attorneys to schedule your consultation. 


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Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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