Murder is a serious criminal offense, and the most serious type of homicide. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the act, murder can be classified as either first or second-degree. The primary difference between first and second degree murder is the level of premeditation and intent.
First-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that was both willful and premeditated. The perpetrator had intent to take a life before the act was committed. In contrast, second-degree murder is an unlawful killing that was not premeditated, but was instead done with malice aforethought. This means that the killer had intent to cause serious harm or death, but had not pre-planned the killing.