When the state charges you with a crime, you have to be aware of the elements it must prove to get a guilty verdict. Every crime has specific elements the prosecutor must show are true for you to be guilty under the law. When it comes to first- and second-degree murder, there are three basic elements, according to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

To begin with, the state must show you killed another living human being. This is a pretty simple element. However, it gets more complex from here.

The next element is that you must have intended to kill the person and did so with malice. Malice is a broad term that can mean hating the other person or expressing those feelings or doing something dangerous that could kill someone without care that someone could get hurt. The state does recognize the death of someone during the commission of another crime as murder even without the intent. However, self-defense is not murder but must be justified. It is also important to note that even if you did not intend to kill the specific person you kill, it is still murder if you had an intent to kill another victim or just to kill in general.

Finally, you need to have thought about or planned the murder prior to it occurring. This means it was premeditated. You do not necessarily have to have a clear and detailed plan. Just the forethought enough to set out to commit murder can be premeditation. This information is for education and is not legal advice.