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Washington First-Degree Murder Laws

When a person kills someone, regardless of intent or other details surrounding the incident, it is generally called a homicide. Specifically, murder is when a person knowingly and purposefully kills another person or causes substantial bodily harm that the person later dies due to the injuries that were inflicted.

First-Degree Murder in Washington

In Washington, first-degree murder is the most serious type of homicide because it is planned and done on purpose with some type evil intent.

First-degree murder is most often thought of as an intentional killing done with premeditation. However, premeditation isn't the only way in which this offense is defined. Other ways the charge arises is with an allegation that:

  • The death resulted from extreme indifference on the defendant's part, or
  • The death occurred when defendant was committing the crime of robbery, rape, burglary, arson, or kidnapping.

Aggravated First-Degree Murder

Murder in the first degree becomes "aggravated" when there are certain factors alleged. The list of aggravating factors include:

  • The victim was a police officer or other official performing his or her duties at the time,
  • The victim was a newspaper reporter covering the actions of the defendant,
  • The defendant was imprisoned or incarcerated on a felony at the time of the killing or was on leave,
  • The defendant acted pursuant to a "murder for hire" agreement,
  • The defendant acted as part of a gang initiation,
  • The killing occurred as part of a drive-by shooting,
  • The victim was a judge, juror, witness, or attorney exercising his or her duties,
  • That the defendant killed to conceal the commission of another crime,
  • Two or more people were killed as part of a scheme,
  • The murder took place in the course of the commission of another serious felony,
  • At the time of the death, the victim had a restraining order against the defendant,
  • The offense was a crime of domestic violence, and there was a past history of abuse.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Washington's murder laws. See also Voluntary Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter, First Degree Murder Defenses, and First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing.

Code Sections

RCW 9A.32.030

What is Prohibited

See Above Definitions

What is Aggravated Murder?

If the homicide (killing of a human) took place in conjunction with a certain felony crimes, such as murder for hire, a drive-by shooting, etc.


First Degree Murder: Class A Felony, Maximum of life without the possibility of parole and a fine.

Aggravated First-Degree Murder: Mandatory life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole and a fine.

Civil Case

Possible Wrongful Death lawsuit

If you do find yourself facing a first-degree murder charge in Washington, you may wish to contact a criminal defense attorney for assistance.

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