What is “Capital Murder” in Virginia?

If you follow news media or watch pop-culture television, you’re probably familiar with the term “capital murder.” Other than sounding more serious to the audience (or to the perpetrator, as the case may be,) what is the real difference when compared to other forms of murder?  At the outset, it is worth mentioning that all murder charges can be potentially life-changing for the accused. For this reason alone, if you are charged with murder, you should consider speaking with a local Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer. Capital murder is a Class 1 felony; your local Virginia Beach defense attorney can address your fact-specific questions.

What Makes it Different? By statute, Virginia punishes capital murders by death or life imprisonment. (See Virginia Code Section 18.2-31).

What are the Forms of Capital Murder? There are thirteen (13) statutory sections, and each defines a form of capital murder. If you read the statute, it will be apparent that there is one portion that is constant throughout each of the thirteen capital murder types: “The willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of any person…” Thus, one way to think of capital murder is this definition, plus one other element.

Capital Murder Summary: For a quick reference to Virginia Capital Murder, check out our handy Reference Guide Here. [LINK TO CAPITAL MURDER REFERENCE CHART] Although the reference chart closely follows the statute, here is a quick breakdown: First, four (4) of the capital murder offenses are forms of “felony murder.” “Felony murder” is a term that refers to a murder/killing that occurs during the commission of a different crime. Next, two (2) of the offenses involve more than one victim. These two crimes include serial murder and the murder of more than one person at the same time. Four (4) capital murder offenses are based upon the classification or category of the people or person involved. These include murder of a law enforcement officer, murder by a prisoner, murder of a woman who is pregnant, and murder of a person 14 years old or younger, when the perpetrator is 21 or older.

As you can see, capital murder can arise in various contexts. Your local Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer can ensure that you understand your rights as well as any charge that may be made against you.