premeditation | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Premeditation in criminal law refers to the act of planning or thinking about a crime before it is committed and is often a key element in determining the severity of a criminal offense.

Premeditation is a necessary element in certain criminal charges, such as first-degree murder, which requires that the defendant planned or thought about the killing before committing it. In other words, the defendant must have had the intent to kill and must have taken steps to carry out that intent.

The existence of premeditation can be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the crime, such as the use of a weapon, the manner in which the crime was committed, and any statements or actions made by the defendant before or after the crime. Evidence of premeditation may include things like a diary or journal entry discussing plans to commit the crime or the purchase of materials or equipment that could be used in the commission of the crime.

The presence of premeditation can significantly affect the severity of the charges and the potential penalties that a defendant may face. For example, a charge of second-degree murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the defendant did not premeditate the killing and acted impulsively or in the heat of the moment.

However, proving premeditation can be challenging, as it requires prosecutors to demonstrate that the defendant not only had the intent to commit the crime but also took steps to plan and carry out that intent. The defense may argue that the defendant acted impulsively or without premeditation, which could lead to a lesser charge or reduced sentence.

Overall, premeditation is an important concept in criminal law that helps to distinguish between different types and degrees of criminal offenses. It serves as a key element in determining the severity of charges and potential penalties and requires prosecutors to prove that a defendant had a specific intent to commit a crime before it was committed.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2023


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