Degrees of Murder in Georgia Explained [2024 Updated]

Lawrence J. Zimmerman

If you speak with any Georgia criminal defense attorney, they will tell you that murder occurs when a person unlawfully and with malice, either expressed or implied, causes the death of another human being. While this definition may seem simple, the state of Georgia recognizes multiple types of murder: first-degree, including felony and malice murder, as well as second-degree murder.

Georgia Felony vs. Malice Murder

According to the Georgia Legal Code, felony murder happens when a person causes the death of another human being during the commission of a felony (besides second-degree child cruelty), irrespective of malice.

In other words, regardless of whether or not their intention is to murder another person, if someone kills another human being while committing another felony crime, it is defined as felony murder. For instance, an offender might commit an act of murder in the process of committing a robbery.

Malice murder is defined as when a person unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being. This means that a person of their own free will and volition planned, however elaborately, to murder another human being intentionally. This is usually a result of direct malice and, therefore, is typically penalized more harshly than felony murder.

Degrees of Murder in Georgia

How Is Second-Degree Murder Defined in Georgia?

Second-degree murder in Georgia occurs when someone causes the death of another human being while committing second-degree child cruelty, irrespective of malice. Therefore, if a person is abusing a child in any way that causes their death, regardless of intention, they have committed a second-degree murder.

This is a fairly new statute in the state of Georgia primarily designed in regard to child deaths as a result of abuse; however, it’s important to note that, in the US, second-degree murder is defined differently depending on the state. Those convicted of this type of murder may face 10 to 30 years in prison.

Is Manslaughter the Same as Murder in Georgia?

Manslaughter, while similar to murder, is not the same thing. While still classified as a type of homicide, manslaughter is most commonly a tragic accident that occurs due to negligence or recklessness rather than a result of any kind of ill intent. However, it is important to know that, much like murder, there are also different types of manslaughter, including involuntary and voluntary.

Involuntary manslaughter happens when a person is being negligent or reckless, and someone loses their life as a result. An example of this may be a car accident after one of the drivers has had too much to drink and collides with another person, killing them.

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone kills another person due to what is referred to as the “heat of passion.” In this case, something traumatic must have occurred, and it must be seen as reasonable to have killed another person as a result. This is often an act of vengeance. There is no planning or premeditation involved in voluntary manslaughter.


Q: Does Georgia Have Different Degrees of Murder?

A: Yes, Georgia has different degrees of murder, though not in the same manner as other states. Georgia observes first-degree murder, including felony and malice, as well as second-degree murder. Felony murder occurs when someone kills another person while committing a separate felony. Conversely, malice murder occurs when an offender plans to and intentionally kills someone else. Second-degree murder in the state of Georgia happens when a child is killed as a result of abuse, regardless of intention.

Q: What Qualifies as Murder in Georgia?

A: Georgia defines murder as any event in which a person unlawfully and with malice, either expressed or implied, causes the death of another human being. This could include a person being killed as the result of another crime, often robbery or mugging. However, it could also be an act of malice, pre-planned to ensure the death of another.

Q: What Is Worse, First-Degree or Second-Degree Murder?

A: From a purely objective look at mandatory minimum sentence laws, according to the state of Georgia, the “worst” type of murder is first-degree murder. The penalties for first-degree murder are more severe than those for second-degree murder. However, first-degree murder includes both felony and malice murder, while second-degree murder only occurs when a child is killed due to abuse.

Q: What Is the Sentence for Murder in Georgia?

A: The sentence for murder in Georgia changes depending on the type of murder committed. In the event of a second-degree murder, the mandatory sentence ranges from 10 to 30 years in prison, with additional sentencing possible. In the event of a first-degree murder, the mandatory sentence can vary from life with parole after 30 years all the way up to the death penalty, depending on the severity of the murder.

Q: Is Manslaughter Different Than Murder in Georgia?

A: While manslaughter and murder are both types of homicide, they are different charges that result in different penalties. Manslaughter in Georgia is viewed as either involuntary or voluntary. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when somebody is killed as a result of someone’s negligent or reckless behavior.

Voluntary Manslaughter occurs when somebody is killed in what is legally referred to as “the heat of passion,” and it can be viewed as reasonable to have taken such action. This is usually an act of vengeance taken against another person.

Contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you’ve been accused of murder or manslaughter in the state of Georgia, contact The Law Office of Lawrence J. Zimmerman immediately so that we can help you with your case. We have a fantastic track record of achieving excellent results for our clients and granting them the most favorable results possible.

For over 25 years, our team has been helping people facing murder and manslaughter charges across Georgia. An accusation or arrest does not mean you are guilty, and it never means that you should lose hope. When you work with The Law Office of Lawrence J. Zimmerman, our experienced attorney can craft a strategic defense on your behalf.

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