Murder is the intentional, premeditated killing of another human being. The premeditation requirement for murder was historically described in the law as “malice aforethought.”
Laws regarding murder vary from state to state, and some states have a separate criminal offense of capital murder, which usually involves the most egregious circumstances, such as killing a peace officer in the line of duty or lying in wait to ambush and kill the victim. Capital murder offenses carry a potential death penalty.
And some states use the distinction of first degree murder (done with premeditation and punishable by death or life in prison) and second degree murder (generally an intentional killing without premeditation—also known as manslaughter or voluntary manslaughter in some states).
The criminal offense of murder is generally located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code.