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New Mexico First-Degree Murder

In New Mexico, the most serious type of homicide is first-degree murder. It's defined as the killing of another human being through a willful, deliberate, and premeditated act. Under certain circumstances, an intentional killing may not be considered first-degree murder if there was a mitigating circumstance.

For example, a husband who comes home to find his wife cheating on him may become enraged and in that instant, decide to shoot and kill her. In this example, the husband committed the killing under the heat of passion and may be charged with second-degree murder rather than first degree murder due to the mitigating circumstance.

The crime of first-degree murder also includes killings which occurred while committing or attempting to commit a felony or while performing any act that is greatly dangerous to the lives of others and shows a depraved mind with no regard for human life. First-degree murder is a capital felony which means that it has the steepest penalties, including life imprisonment without parole. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009. As such, a first-degree murder conviction may not be penalized by death. The following is a quick summary of New Mexico's first-degree murder laws.

New Mexico First-Degree Murder Laws

The following table outlines New Mexico's first-degree murder laws.

Code Sections NEW MEXICO STAT. ANN. § 30-2-1
What’s Prohibited?

First-degree murder consists of killing another person under any of the following circumstances:

  • A willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing
  • During the actual or attempted commission of any felony
  • By an act which is greatly dangerous to another's life and evidences a depraved mind which has no regard for human life
Penalties First-degree murder is a capital felony punishable by life imprisonment without parole.

Defenses to first-degree murder include acting in response to a sufficient provocation, in defense upon a sudden fight, or in the heat of passion. If these defenses are successful, the crime may be reduced to second-degree murder.

It is also a defense to first-degree murder if the person could not establish sufficient intent for the killing or the underlying felony or act such as a person who is mentally retarded or involuntarily intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

In certain instances where the death was caused by a public officer or employee, it is a defense if the officer was acting under a court order or in order to overcome resistance to the law, recapture an escaped felon, arrest a fleeing felon, prevent escape by a felon, or prevent serious harm or death.

Private citizens may also have a defense if the death was necessary to defend against an unlawful action to one's life, family, or property, death to oneself or one's family, imminent physical injury or a felony to oneself or another person, or in order to apprehend a person committing a felony, suppress a riot, or to keep and preserve the peace.

New Mexico First-Degree Murder Laws: Related Resources

The crime of first-degree murder has serious consequences. If you or someone you know has been charged with murder, you may want to contact an experienced New Mexico criminal defense attorney for assistance. You may also want to read Findlaw's First Degree Murder Overview, First Degree Murder Defenses, and First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing for more articles and information on this topic.

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