Pennsylvania First Degree Murder Laws

In Pennsylvania, criminal homicide, the unlawful death of a human being, includes three types of murder and two types of manslaughter. Pennsylvania state laws require proof of malice to distinguish murder from manslaughter. To prove malice in a murder case, the prosecutor must show the defendant’s general intent to commit an unlawful act or achieve a harmful result. A prosecutor can establish either express malice or implied malice; first degree murder generally requires a showing of express malice.

In addition, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant had a specific intent to kill. In a first degree murder case, the state may prove the defendant’s deliberate intent to commit an unlawful killing by considering the defendant’s actions, use of a deadly weapon, or other circumstances.


First degree murder is the highest degree of murder in Pennsylvania and generally results in the most severe punishments available under state law. To prove first degree murder, the prosecutor must show that the defendant committed a premeditated, unlawful killing of a human being.

The defendant’s premeditation, planning, and deliberate acts set first degree murder apart from second degree murder. A killing committed spontaneously or during a heat of passion may likely require prosecution as one of the other homicide crimes established by Pennsylvania law.

Questions about Pennsylvania First Degree Murder Laws? Contact Atty. Munley directly at 570-420-0620 or ask him a question by using the form below.