Following the tragic death of George Floyd, many wondered whether Derek Chauvin would be charged with murder, and if so, what degree of murder would he be charged with. After finding out Derek Chauvin was charged with 2rd degree murder, 3rd degree murder, and 2nd degree manslaughter, you might be wondering, why? Many people know that 1st degree murder is the most serious, but you might not know the difference between the 3rd and 1st degree murder, understandably so. Decisions on charging an individual are important, and in cases like Derek Chauvin, these decisions will be examined closely. A more complete understanding of the different degrees of murder will allow you to more fully grasp the Derek Chauvin case moving forward.
For starters, there are three different degrees of murder. 1st degree murder is the most serious and has the most severe consequences. In order to charge an individual with 1st degree murder, one of several aggravating factors must be present. Some of these factors are based on the identity of the victim, if an individual intentionally kills a police officer, they will be charged with 1st degree murder. The commission of certain crimes which result in a death will lead to 1st degree murder charges as well. Killing an individual during the commission of a sex offense with force and killing an individual while committing or attempting to commit a burglary are examples of factors that will enhance your charges to 1st degree murder. Premeditation will also lead to 1st degree murder charges. Premeditation means to consider, plan, or prepare for the murder. Intent is vital to bringing a charge of 1st degree murder. For the most part, you must show that the person intended for the murder to occur. Proving intent is often difficult, which is why these charges are fairly rare. The maximum sentence for 1st degree murder is life in prison.
Derek Chauvin was originally only charged with 3rd degree murder, but his charges were eventually upgraded to include 2nd degree murder. 2nd degree murder is different than 1st degree murder in that, intent still matters, but there is no need to prove premeditation. An intentional murder that occurs without premeditation is considered to be 2nd degree murder. As was the case with 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder also includes language that accounts for specific circumstances. If you are committing or attempting to commit a drive by shooting, you will be charged with 2nd degree murder. 2nd degree murder also accounts for unintentional murders. Any murder that occurs without intent while committing or attempting to commit a felony, excluding the felonies listed in 1st degree murder, will be charged as 2nd degree murder. Derek Chauvin was charged with 2nd degree murder because, if George Floyd did not resist, the use of force was felony assault which means George Floyd’s death occurred during the commission of a felony. The maximum sentence for 2nd degree murder is 40 years. However, since Derek Chauvin has no criminal history, the maximum sentence in his case is 15 years.
3rd degree murder occurs in one of two ways: 1) when an individual without intent causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life; or 2) unintentional killing related to certain drug offenses. So, in order to convict Derek Chauvin of 3rd degree murder, the prosecution must show that the actions he took were eminently dangerous and showed a depraved mine without regard for George Floyd’s life. The maximum sentence for 3rd degree murder is 25 years. As was the case for 2nd degree murder, the maximum for Derek Chauvin is less, he faces up 8 ½ years for 3rd degree murder.
Link to complaint against Derek Chauvin can be found here.