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What is the Law on Murder in Virginia and What are the Punishments for it?

Murder involves knowingly killing another person. According to Virginia law, there are three different classes of murder, viz. capital murder, first-degree murder, and second-degree murder.

Capital Murder

According to Section 18.2-31 of Article 1of code of Virginia, capital murder includes a wilful killing of a person in the commission of abduction, killing of another person for hire, deliberate killing of a person by a prisoner, premeditated killing of a person while committing robbery, multiple murders committed by a person, wilful murders committed while distributing drugs, killing a judge to interfere with the performance of his official duties, killing a law enforcement officer, and murder of a child younger than 14 years old. The killing of a witness in a criminal case after the issuance of the subpoena also comes under the capital murder.

Virginia Murder Law

Punishment for Capital Murder in Virginia

Capital murder has the toughest punishment in Virginia. It is punished as a Class 1 felony. If a person is convicted of capital murder, he is punishable by death or life imprisonment along with a fine of up to $100,000. If the person convicted of capital murder is mentally retarded or under 18 years old, he is punishable by life imprisonment along with a fine of up to $100,000.

Murder in the First Degree in Virginia

According to Section 18.2-32 of Article 1of code of Virginia, first-degree murder involves the killing of another person in a manner that is not covered under the capital murder but in any of the following ways:

  • Using poison, imprisoning somebody, starving, and lying in wait
  • Intentional, premeditated, and deliberate killing
  • Killing a person while trying to commit burglary, animate or inanimate object sexual penetration, rape, forcible sodomy, abduction, and robbery.
Murder Law Virginia

The key difference between capital murder and murder of first degree is that all the willful, premeditated, and deliberate murders that do not fall under the capital murder offense are treated as a murder in the first degree.

Punishment for Murder in the First Degree in Virginia

Murder in the first degree is punished as a Class 2 felony in Virginia. If a person is convicted of committing murder in the first degree, he is punishable by imprisonment by 20 years to life in prison. He might also face a fine of up to $100,000.

Murder in the Second Degree in Virginia

According to Section 18.2-32 of Article 1, a person will be considered guilty of second-degree murder if the murder does not fall under the requirements of capital murder and murder in the first degree.

Even a felony murder (murder committed when the convict is committing another felony like robbery and carjacking) is considered second-degree murder. Accidental deaths while committing a felony are also considered to be felony murders.

Murder Law

Punishment for Murder in the Second Degree

Murder in the second degree is punished as a felony conviction with a prison term ranging between five and forty years.

Murder of a Pregnant Woman

Murder of a pregnant woman is dealt with separately in the law of Virginia. As per Section 18.2-32.1, if a person kills a pregnant woman while knowing that she is pregnant and had the desire to kill the unborn child; he will be guilty of murder. Persons found guilty of killing a pregnant woman face penalties of a felony conviction. They will be punished with a jail term ranging between ten and forty years.

Manslaughter in Virginia

Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter is still not defined in the statues of Virginia and hence are considered as common law offenses. However, both voluntary and involuntary manslaughters are punished as class 5 felonies.


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