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Ohio Second-Degree Murder Laws

Murder in the second degree is the intentional killing of another person, or a death caused while committing a felony. But unlike first degree murder, it is not premeditated or planned. And unlike voluntary manslaughter, it is not committed in the "heat of passion." Ohio statute defines the crime as either:

  • An unplanned, purposeful killing; or
  • A death cause during the commission of certain felonies

The victim may be any person, or even an unborn fetus. As a practical matter, second-degree murder is usually referred to as simply "murder" and is punishable by a prison term of 15 years to life; but this can increase to life in prison without the chance of parole if the offense was committed with a "sexual motivation."

For example, Bob and James get in a heated argument at a bar. They go out into the parking lot and get into a physical fight. Bob pulls out a knife and stabs James to death. While Bob wasn't planning on killing James before he went out, he also wasn't provoked in such a manner that it could be called a "heat-of-the-moment" killing.

If you have been charged with second degree murder or any other other homicide charge, it is in your best interests to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A skilled lawyer will work to exclude evidence from trial, lessen the charges (if possible), and secure the best outcome possible. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for one at no cost.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Ohio's second-degree murder laws. To learn more, including other types of homicide charges, see FindLaw's Homicide section.

Code Sections Ohio Revised Code 2903.02
What is Prohibited?

A non-premeditated, unplanned killing, resulting from an assault or act intending in which death of the victim was a distinct possibility.


Life Imprisonment or a Prison Term of Varying Length with the possibility of parole.

Civil Case

Possible Wrongful Death lawsuit

If you do find yourself facing a murder or felony murder charge, you may wish to contact a Ohio criminal defense lawyer for assistance.

Research the Law

Ohio Second-Degree Murder Laws: Related Resources

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