What Happens When a Robbery Becomes a Homicide in Minnesota?

When you hear the terms “homicide” and “murder”, you probably think they are contrasting words for the same act. While both signal the death of another person, the law regards them in quite different lights.

In the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a homicide recently occurred. The suspect intended only to rob a business, but he ended up shooting and killing the cashier instead. The police called this a homicide, but will that be the ultimate charge for the defendant? Likely not.

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between homicide and murder, as well as the penalties faced if found guilty in Minnesota.

Murder and Homicide: What’s the Difference?

Many words and phrases carry popular meanings that don’t really correspond to the truth of Minnesota law or the criminal justice system. Homicide and murder are perfect examples of this phenomenon.

Under the law, homicide refers to the killing of another person. Its legal or illegal status depends on the circumstances of the case.

Murder, on the other hand, is always illegal. It’s committed with “malice aforethought”. Malice aforethought means that the killing wasn’t justified, like in a battle. It means the crime involved either intent to kill or conduct so reckless as to demonstrate disregard for human life.

Essentially, intents from the difference between the two terms. Did the person who killed intend to kill another person?

Murder in Minnesota

If an action is deemed murder in Minnesota, the accused faces different levels of charges. The charge will depend on the circumstances surrounding the case, such as premeditation and intent.

The law defines “intent” as whether or not a reasonable person would expect their actions to result in the death of another person. “Premeditation” means that plans preceded the act.

Duluth Murder Defense Lawyer

First Degree Murder

First-degree murder in Minnesota constitutes the gravest charge. In order to reach this severity, aggravating factors must be present in the case, such as:

  • The intent to kill
  • Premeditation of the crime
  • Killing a person during a sexual assault or rape attempt
  • Killing a person while trying to commit another felony, i.e. kidnapping, assault, robbery, or arson
  • Killing an on-duty peace officer, judge, or correctional officer with intent
  • Killing a child, especially during an act of abuse or in a way that shows indifference to human life
  • Killing during an act of domestic abuse
  • Killing through actions that furthered terrorism

Second Degree Murder

In Minnesota, second-degree murder occurs when:

  • A victim is killed during a drive-by shooting—or a drive-by attempt
  • A person is killed by someone under restraining order

These are just a few examples of second-degree murder. In general, murder can be charged in this degree if there’s no evidence of premeditation, even if the killing was accidental.

Third Degree Murder

Third-degree murder occurs when an act to harm another person results in their death. This includes selling, exchanging, delivering, administering, or giving away a controlled substance.

This level of murder can also be charged when people are placed in danger of death, on the grounds of a “depraved heart”. Firing a gun into a crowd is a good example. The shooter may not have harbored the objective to kill, but someone could very well die from this action that shows a clear disregard for human life.

The Penalties for Murder in Minnesota

The penalties for murder vary depending on the case, but in general, they are:

  • First-degree murder – life in prison.
  • Second-degree murder – up to 40 years behind bars.
  • Third-degree murder – as many as 25 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.

What About Felony Murder?

The Penalties for Murder in Minnesota

You may have heard the term felony murder, too. But what is it?

The law defines “felony murder” as a death caused during the commission of another felony. For example, if you commit arson and someone dies in the fire, that could result in felony murder charges in Minnesota.

Intent to murder does not need to be shown in order to gain conviction for this crime. The prosecution only needs to demonstrate intent to commit the original felony, which resulted in the death.

About the Author:

Andrew T. Poole is a Minnesota native who has served in the Army for more than 18 years and is currently a JAG lawyer in the Army Reserves in addition to serving as a partner at LaCourse, Poole & Envall. He has handled thousands of criminal and family law cases over the course of his career and has a firm belief that all hardworking Minnesotans should be entitled to the best possible legal counsel. Mr. Poole boasts a 10/10 Superb rating on Avvo, is Lead Counsel rated, and has been recognized multiple times by SuperLawyers, National Trial Lawyers, and others for his work.