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Criminal Law: Murder in the First Degree

A bill has been introduced to the Oklahoma State Senate that would expand the definition of first-degree murder. Senate Bill 1066 is aimed at providing express statutory consequences for the state's drug manufacturing and distribution problem. While common sense might suggest that first-degree murder is a simple concept, the legal interpretation provides various elements and situations to which first-degree murder may or may not apply.

According to Oklahoma Criminal Law, a person commits murder in the first degree when that person illegally and with malice causes the death of another human being. Notice that a person does not have to "kill" another in the colloquial sense. One must only cause the death of another with malice. This distinction allows one to commit first-degree murder by severely injuring another person if that injury eventually leads to their death.

Likewise, one can commit first-degree murder if he or she unintentionally causes the death of another while committing certain unlawful and statutorily enumerated acts. For instance, a person can be charged with first-degree murder if she takes the life of a human being during the commission or attempted commission of an armed robbery.

The newly introduced Senate Bill would expand this list of acts by adding the manufacture or attempted manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance. This means that if Person A constructs a meth lab in order to manufacture meth, the lab blows up and that explosion accidentally kills Person B, Person A can be charged with murder in the first degree.

If passed and signed into law, this measure may allow prosecutors to push for stiffer sentences for those who put others in danger by getting involved with illegal drug manufacture and distribution. If you or someone you know has questions about a criminal case, contact our former Assistant District Attorneys to make sure you get the legal representation you need.