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Montana Murder Law

In Montana, there are five types of criminal homicide: deliberate homicide, mitigated deliberate homicide, negligent homicide, aiding or soliciting suicide, and vehicular homicide while under the influence. Deliberate homicide (referred to as first-degree murder in some other states) is the most harshly punished type of homicide in Montana.

First-degree murder generally encompasses premeditated intentional killings that are done with malice aforethought. In Montana, deliberate homicide criminalizes premeditated intentional killings (of another human being or of a fetus) and felony murder. This article outlines Montana's deliberate homicide law.

Code Section

Montana Code section 45-5-102: Deliberate Homicide

What's Prohibited?

  • Purposely or knowingly causing the death of another human being
  • Purposely or knowingly causing the death of a fetus of another with knowledge that the woman is pregnant, or
  • Committing, attempting to commit, or being legally accountable for the attempt or commission of robbery, sexual intercourse without consent, arson, burglary, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, felonious escape, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, or any other forcible felony and in the course of the felony or flight thereafter, the person or any person legally accountable for the crime causes the death of another human being


Punishable by death, unless the offender is less than 18 years old at the time that the offense was committed, by life imprisonment, or by imprisonment for a term of between 10 and 100 years, except as provided in section 46-18-219 and section 46-18-222.

Felony Murder

As outlined in the table above, Montana's deliberate homicide law criminalizes felony murder. The felony murder rule covers killings in which someone dies during, or shortly after, the commission of one of the inherently dangerous felonies listed in the statute (see chart above for the list of applicable felonies). Most murder convictions require that the killing be done purposefully or knowingly, however, under the felony murder rule there's no requirement that the offender intended to cause the death.

Mitigated Deliberate Homicide

When an unlawful killing that would ordinarily constitute deliberate homicide in Montana is committed under the influence of extreme mental or emotional stress, for which there is a reasonable explanation, then the killing is classified as the lesser crime of mitigated deliberate homicide. The reasonableness of the explanation or excuse is determined from the point of view of a reasonable person in the offender's situation. For example, if a wife comes home and kills her husband after finding him in bed with his mistress, the killing will likely qualify as mitigated deliberate homicide if the court finds that the woman acted under the reasonable influence of extreme mental or emotional stress.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Montana's first-degree murder law contact a local criminal defense lawyer.

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