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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.

In Texas, murder is defined under Texas Penal Code Section 19.02 as intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person, causing serious bodily injury that results in death, or committing or attempting to commit a felony, during which a death occurs. Premeditation, or 'malice aforethought,' is not a separate element in Texas murder charges. Texas does distinguish between murder and capital murder. Capital murder, as outlined in Section 19.03 of the Texas Penal Code, includes circumstances such as the murder of a peace officer or fireman, murder during the commission of certain felonies, murder for remuneration, and multiple murders, among others. Capital murder can be punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Texas does not use the terms 'first degree murder' or 'second degree murder' but does recognize the concept of 'sudden passion' which can reduce a murder charge to a second-degree felony if the offense is committed under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause.

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