Difference between Murder and Aggravated Murder

The accusation of murder results in a sensitive criminal case and has very serious consequences since it involves a person losing their life. Both murder and aggravated murder are termed as first degree felonies that are punishable by lengthy jail terms, sometimes up to life, or even the death sentence, depending on the severity of allegations and local laws. It is therefore very important to understand what murder or aggravated murder is so as to accord the necessary focus to them in case you or a family member is involved. This article will help you determine the difference between murder and aggravated murder.


Murder is when one is convicted after having done either of the following:

  • Killed someone intentionally.
  • Killed someone due to an act of violence classified as first and second degree offence, with manslaughter as the exception.

Murder vs Aggravated Murder

Aggravated murder is a criminal offense in which the accused is alleged to have done one of the following:

  • With planning involved, the accused killed someone intentionally.
  • Intentionally killed a person who is below 13 years of age.
  • Intentionally killed a person while serving term in prison or while he/she is a prison escapee.
  • Intentionally killed a law officer who he/she either planned to kill or was on official duty.
  • Killed someone or illegally terminated a person’s pregnancy while in the process of committing, trying to commit or escaping after the act of rape, kidnapping, aggravated arson, arson, robbery, aggravated robbery, burglary, aggravated burglary, terrorism, or trespass.

Comparison Chart

Murder Aggravated murder
A victim is killed intentionally with malice aforethought A victim is killed under aggravating circumstances listed above.

Murder vs Aggravated Murder

What is the difference between murder and aggravated murder? The difference lies in whether or not the murder was surrounded by any particular circumstances.

While both murder and aggravated murder involve the loss of life, they are different. Murder is deemed to have occurred when a killing is done with malice aforethought. This means that the person committing the crime had intent to kill another person. Intent is the clear indication that the murderer ‘wanted’ to kill. The intent can either be expressed such as by a confession or implied by the actions of the accused.

Aggravated murder, on the other hand, occurs when the killing is accompanied by other first degree felonies or happens in a premeditated design, i.e. the accused had planned to commit the crime before it happened. Aggravated murder means that the murder was committed under other circumstances. For example, the defendant was paid to commit the murder.

The term ‘aggravated’ means that the murder is surrounded by some other circumstances such as the victim being killed while another crime was being committed, the murderer having planned to kill the victim ahead of time, or the killing being committed along with rape or other atrocious felonies.