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District of Columbia First-Degree Murder Law

In most states, the severity of killing a human is often classified as either first-degree or second degree murder. In the District of Columbia. first degree murder is charged for the killing of any human being with malice aforethought. However, the Nation's Capital also defines other ways in which killing a human can be elevated to murder in the first degree. This is a quick summary of first degree murder law in the District of Columbia.

Convictions for First-Degree Murder in the District of Columbia

Once known as the "murder capital" of the nation, the District of Columbia has seen a major decline in homicides since the early 1990s. The penalties associated with first-degree murder, as well as an increase in police protection, have been a major part in the decline of the homicide rate in Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas.

The following table outlines the specifics of first degree murder law in the District of Columbia.

Code Sections

District of Columbia Official Code §22-2101: Murder In The First Degree

What's Prohibited?

An individual is guilty of first degree murder in D.C. if he or she, being of sound memory and discretion, purposely kills another person, either with deliberate and premeditated malice or by means of poison.

A person is also guilty of first degree murder under District of Columbia criminal law if he or she kills another human while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate an offense punishable by imprisonment.

It also is a crime if a person, without purpose to do so, kills another person in perpetrating or in attempting to perpetrate any:

  • Arson,
  • First-degree sexual abuse,
  • First-degree child sexual abuse,
  • First-degree cruelty to children,
  • Mayhem,
  • Robbery,
  • Kidnapping,
  • Housebreaking while armed with or using a dangerous weapon, or
  • Felony involving a controlled substance.

Furthermore, whoever maliciously places an obstruction upon a railroad or street railroad and thereby causes the death of another is also guilty of murder in the first degree in the District of Columbia.


First-degree murder is a class A felony in Washington, D.C., with a prison sentence of at least 30 years but no more than life imprisonment. However, in certain situations, the court may impose a minimum prison sentence in excess of 60 years.

Allegations of killing another human being are extremely serious. It is important that you fully understand all of your rights and the extent of the charges. If you have been accused of first degree murder and require legal assistance, you can contact a District of Columbia criminal defense lawyer through FindLaw. Visit FindLaw's sections on first-degree murder and criminal charges for more articles and information on this topic.

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