Murder, in criminal law, intentionally causing the death (homicide) of any person. Murder is distinguished from manslaughter, which means unintentional killing.
In most of the U.S., criminal codes distinguish between two degrees of murder, although as many as five degrees are distinguished in some states. In general, murder in the first degree involves a deliberate, premeditated design to cause the death of the person; murder in the second degree involves the intent to cause death, but without premeditation and deliberation.
Most states classify a homicide that occurs during the commission of a felony as first-degree murder, even though the element of premeditated intent is absent. In some states the commission of an act in itself imminently dangerous to others, such as throwing a bomb into a crowd and causing death, is classified as first-degree murder.
Prosecution for murder is by indictment, and the maximum punishment in some states is death. In states in which the death penalty has been abolished, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment in a state penitentiary.
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