What’s the difference between first- and second-degree murder?


A crime can be considered first-degree murder if the person intentionally and knowingly caused the death of more than one person, a law enforcement officer, judge or prosecutor, or a witness testifying in a criminal case.

“First-degree murder is the ultimate crime in the state of Hawaii,” said attorney Victor Bakke. “There is no crime and penalty higher than murder in the first degree.”

But how often do we see cases or convictions like this in Hawaii?

“They are pretty uncommon in Hawaii,” said Bakke.

In fact, the last person in Hawaii that was convicted of first-degree murder was Byran Uyesugi, who killed seven of his coworkers at the former Xerox building back in 1999.

Most murder cases result in second-degree murder charges, so how does the punishment vary between first- and second-degree murder convictions?

“The main difference comes in the manner of sentencing,” said Bakke. “A first degree carries the maximum penalty of life without possibility of parole. A murder (in the) second-degree also carries a possible life sentence, but there is the possibility of parole.”

Bakke also says that attempted murder cases can also be classified as first-degree murder.

“Unlike some other states, an attempted offense carries the same penalties as the completed offense, so whether it is attempted murder in the first degree or actual murder in the first degree, the penalty is still the same,” said Bakke.

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