What is the difference between malice murder, 2nd-degree murder, and felony murder?

Malice murder in Georgia is defined in OCGA § 16-5-1(a) as causing the death of another human being with malice aforethought. Express malice is the deliberate intention to take a life unlawfully. Malice can also be implied based on the circumstances of the killing. The intent to kill (aforethought) can be formed in an instant and does not require proof of any sort of plan or motive. Malice murder in Georgia carries a punishment of life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

Murder in the 2nd Degree in Georgia (OCGA § 16-5-1(c)) is limited. It only arises when the death of a child under 18 is caused by criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is an act or failure to act that demonstrates a willful, wonton, or reckless disregard for the safety of others who might reasonably be expected to be injured by the act or failure to act. The punishment for Murder in the 2nd Degree is a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Felony murder (OCGA § 16-5-1(b)) is exactly what it sounds like. It is where someone dies during the commission of a felony. For example, defendant A drives defendant B to a bank to rob it. Defendant A stays in the car while B goes into the bank. During the robbery, B shoots and kills the teller. A then drives B away from the scene. B can be charged with malice murder and felony murder based on the death of the teller during the robbery. A can be charged with felony murder because a person died during the commission of the felony of robbery. The punishment for Felony Murder is the same as malice murder. It carries a punishment of life in prison with or without parole.

If you or a loved one are charged with malice murder, murder in the 2nd degree, or felony murder give us a call for a free case consultation at 404-581-0999.