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Third DegreeImportant Factors You Must Know About 3rd Degree Murder (CASE STUDY)

April 17, 20190

Third Degree Murder is the homicide of someone with the intention to cause harm besides the death but that harm or injury causes the death of the person. 3rd-degree murder or felony murder means is something that had a substantial bringing about the death either directly and immediately or through happenings to follow one after the other.

In this article, you will be informed regarding the 3rd-degree murder but before I go ahead, let me just ask you a question and I need you to think and respond about it after reading this article.

“Does Third Degree Murder Really Exist?”

The purpose of this article is to bring the authority of information into your minds and let you know about the facts and truths.

If you go to the AUTHORITATIVE  platforms like Quora or Wikipedia and do some research about the felony murder then you will see that the answering people know insufficient information but here you will get bulk of information.

What are the 3 degrees of murder?

Generally, there are 3 degrees of murders and each degree has its own jurisdiction and scope but in New Mexico they categorize it as the Five Degrees of Murder but this is not practically admissible in the United States.

In the United States of America, some States i.e. Minnesota, Florida, and Pennsylvania have settled the laws and precedents regarding the degrees of murders.

There are 3 degrees of murders such as:

  1. First Degree Murder
  2. Second Degree Murder
  3. Third Degree Murder

First Degree Murder

First Degree Murder is to be considered as an intentional killing and the malice as well.

Second Degree Murder

Second Degree Murder is to be considered the homicide without the element of design or deliberation.

Third Degree Murder

Third Degree Murder is the murder in the absence of intention and in proceed of any other felony. It is also called third-degree manslaughter.

Classification of 3rd Degree Murder

The third-degree murder also known as third-degree manslaughter is further classified into two main categories such as:

  1. Voluntary Manslaughter

  2. Involuntary Manslaughter

    1. Constructive Manslaughter

    2. Criminally Negligent Manslaughter

What is Third Degree Murder?

Third Degree Murder is the homicide of someone without designing any scheme or plan specifically to kill the victim. Some consider it a negligent homicide and some considers it unintentional killing or felony murder as well but the rest of them don’t consider anything about third-degree manslaughter because according to them 3rd-degree murder doesn’t fall within the concept of Murder.

BUT I consider it the third category of murder so as called the felony murder as well.

If I say that the concept of 3rd-degree murder was added into the books of the United States in the near past then it wouldn’t be wrong. But yes there was the concept of the First Degree Murder and the Second Degree Murder in the history and then the concept of the 3rd-degree homicide was introduced to fulfill the lacuna left by the 1st and 2nd-degree murders.

3rd Degree Murders definition

The definition of the 3rd degree murders is getting differ in some States of the US such as the Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Florida whereas each State has its own way to define the 3rd Degree Murder terminology.

            However the concept is same but I would usually define the 3rd degree murder as the murder of someone without intent to kill him rather bodily, mentally or biologically harm as well as the proceeding of any other non-violent felony.

What does the 3rd Degree Murder mean?

Whosoever on trial is the proximate cause of the person’s death by directly or indirectly and that’s where we get down that chain of distribution unlawfully either selling so they don’t have to profit from this bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing or administering which means literally giving it to them like an injection or something by administering that drug to the person that died the proximate cause.

So let’s say somebody on a drug and they go into cardiac arrest they have a heart attack or they go into a coma or they start seizing and they don’t die right at the scene they’ve taken to the hospital and they die a week later two weeks later three weeks later whatever the law still supports the idea that they can be charged with this third-degree murder. 

The next element is that it happened in whatever county that you’re charged in and that’s usually not an issue in a case so really the big issue is that the death was caused by these drugs and that the person if they’re not the person who directly gave the drugs to them but that this person was indeed in this chain of distribution for the drugs. One of the things we look at is whether this drug is actually outlawed as a drug.

Some drugs are not on the federal schedule of schedule 1 or schedule 2 and if those drugs aren’t named on that schedule then the drug may not be illegal even if it caused the death and if it’s not an illegal drug then there’s a defense that this is an illegal drug.

Example of Third-degree murders

I’m going to refer an example about a third-degree murder or felony murder and lately what’s been happening in the United States as more and more people have been charged with third-degree killing for distributing drugs to others and the way this is working is let’s say I’m a drug dealer and I sell them to Jim and then Joe sells them to Adam and Adam gives the drugs to his girlfriend and girlfriend overdoses and dies as a result of the drugs that she got from her boyfriend.

So that would be considered as third-degree manslaughter.

I have never met her boyfriend and I have never met her yet they come all the way back up the chain and they charge me with murder and that’s what’s been going on.

Punishment of Third Degree Murder

If somebody pleads guilty or is found guilty of 3rd degree homicide charges they’re generally receiving third-degree murder punishment of somewhere between seven and ten years of prison if they do not have a prior criminal history.

If they’ve got another criminal history they might even be punished for 25 years of the imprisonment as referred by the Law of the United States of America.

So generally what the law, how the law these cases are charged out as that prosecutors will allege that somebody aids and abets in the murder in the third degree of somebody that overdosed on these drugs and in the United States that’s called liability of crimes for another and the specific elements that are read to a jury.

Florida Minnesota Pennsylvania
Previous History 40 years Max 25 years Max 40 years Max
No Criminal Record 15 years Max 25 years Max 20 years Max


Charges of Third Degree Murder

If a case goes to a trial on these third-degree murder charges that are read to a jury is that whoever by directly or indirectly unlawfully selling giving away bartering which means trading, delivering, exchanging, distributing which means giving away or administering any drug without intent to cause a death but yet that drug even proximate causes the death of another human being is guilty of third-degree homicide and the felony murder charges shall apply subsequently.

So what that means is if someone is ingesting or taking other drugs in combination. Let’s say if they were having cocaine that night and marijuana and maybe some prescription pills that they didn’t have a prescription for yet they overdose and even if the acid is part of what caused them to overdose and die.

They’re still charging this as a murder and the state and the law may support a conviction for that it depends on the facts of the case so that’s number one that’s read to a jury the other part of it is what’s called the elements of the crime and the elements mean the ingredients of a crime that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury if they have to prove all of the elements of a crime for someone to be found guilty. 

Elements of Third Degree Murder

If there are five elements and the jury agrees that the prosecutor is proven for beyond a reasonable doubt but not the fifth one that there’s some question about the fifth one. Then they’ll return a not guilty verdict because you have to prove all five elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. The first element of the 3rd-degree murder is that the death must be proven.
  2. The second element of the third-degree murder is the death caused directly or indirectly.
  3. The next elements are the accused must be charged in the commission of the 3rd-degree murder.
  4. The key element of felony murder is the absence of intention.
  5. The very last element is the act done in proceeding with other crimes or felony than murder.

NOTE: The element no. 4 of this Article is denied and opposed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in the Commonwealth vs. Fisher’s case with the observation that the mere absence of the intent is not the element.

But according to my research, it concludes that it is the key element of the 3rd-degree crime.

So far the Commonwealth vs. Fisher case is concerned it was based on the query regarding the conspiracy to commit the third degree homicide.

And if you rely on the 3rd degree homicide example explained in this Article you will observe that the drug dealer doesn’t even know the victim or neither ever intended to kill him rather in proceeding of the fifth element.

But the game will be changed when the concept of conspiracy to commit the third degree homicide arrives because it requires an intention to kill or to harm someone.

Still confused ??

Now just let me ask you a simple question.

If the absence of the intention is not an essential element then what would be the difference between the first second and third degree murders?

The question for the jury in that situation would be whether that was a substantial part in bringing about the death and that’s one of the defenses to these crimes. 

Is There Such Thing As Third Degree Murder?

The actual challenge to these cases is whether there’s even enough probable cause to believe that the person in this alleged distribution change chain really was one of the people that distributed the drugs gave them away or anything like that so that’s the defense as well and then obviously the second element of third degree killing has proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now that would go to a trial to a jury of course which is different than a probable cause challenge but these cases are defensible finally if somebody has done something like this and they never intended anybody to die certainly that’s usually the case and sometimes even innocent teenagers you know that get caught up in sharing or experimenting with some drugs never imagined in the world that they would later be charged with a murder case and something’s gone away.

Then we’re looking at sometimes what’s called mitigation which means helping the sentence at the end of the case if somebody decides to plea to that or lower charge and there have been cases you know where we’ve been able to mitigate very serious cases and avoid people going to prison.

So that’s another way that these cases can’t come out each case is its own unique item but when you’re looking for a lawyer to handle a case like this you want to make sure that they have experience in defending these third degree drug distribution cases if you have additional questions then you may ask the same in question section.

In the Commonwealth vs Fisher’s case, it is observed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that the conspiracy to commit third degree murder is a cognizable offense.

Difference between Second and Third Degree Murder

The difference between second and third degree murder isn’t in every case clear.

Second-degree Murder

Third Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is killing without intention or thought. Third-degree murder is in some cases alluded to as homicide and can be characterized as a slaughtering that does not include malice aforethought.
Plainly the accused expected to hurt the person in question, however not that he proposed to murder him. The concept of the third degree murder does not exist in all states.
Second-degree murder allegations frequently emerge after a respondent proposed to attack an unfortunate casualty, however, wound up killing him. Third-degree murder is in some cases additionally characterized by being either intentional or automatic.


The sentence for second-degree murder fluctuates as indicated by the state where the wrongdoing was submitted, however, by and large, it includes a time of detainment. Willful homicide may emerge, for instance, if an individual is all of a sudden incited and carries out the wrongdoing while in the warmth of displeasure or energy.


In involuntary manslaughter, the accused is liable for neglectfully dismissing the dangers required with his acts, consequently in the death of the victim.


Third Degree Murder Sentence:

In the Commonwealth vs Fisher case:

The jury, in the commission of the third degree murder, sentenced Fisher and Best for 25 years of imprisonment. And for conspiracy to commit third degree murder sentence with a concurrent term of 10 to 20 years imprisonment.

And Stanton, for conspiracy to commit third degree homicide sentenced for 25 years imprisonment with a concurrent term of two and one-half to five years imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter.

Attempted third degree murder

Attempted third degree murder is not a cognizable offense, analogizing these decisions’ reasoning that because an attempt is a specific intent crime, one cannot attempt to do something unintentionally.

Source: See Fisher’s Brief, at 11 (citing Commonwealth v. Williams, 730 A.2d 507, 511–12 (Pa.Super.1999); Commonwealth v. Griffin, 310 Pa.Super. 39, 456 A.2d 171, 177 (Pa.Super.1983)).


The information is collected by researching several case laws settled by the superior courts and trusted sources which shall helpful for your research work and the presentations as well.

If any query is in your mind you may ask in the question section of this Blog but before asking any query make sure that such question may not already exist in the questions.

Let us know if any lacuna left in this Article so we can update and present better information before you.

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