When a crime is committed in the heat of the moment—without planning or thinking—then it’s usually considered a crime of “sudden passion.” The person’s emotions take over their actions, resulting in a crime being unexpectedly committed.
What is the difference between crimes of passion and regular crimes?
When looking at the nature of different crimes, the court will review the motive of the defendant or the intent that was present. If there is a clear intent to commit a crime, then this would be judged harsher than if the crime occurred as a result of passion.
A crime of passion typically occurs as a result of someone being jealous or out of terror or rage, allowing the person’s emotions to overcome reasonable thinking.
Here are some examples of crimes of passion:
- Shooting or committing an assault on a partner because the partner was caught in the act of cheating
- Causing harm to someone after the partner decides to break up with them
- Committing a form of retaliation because of a crime that was committed against the defendant, such as rape or robbery
In past decades, such as the 1850s, a crime of passion could be applied to a variety of crimes committed. However, today’s crimes of passion are usually related to a murder that’s committed due to an emotional disconnect instead of thinking about the actions and consequences of committing the crime.
When there is a strong passion that occurs due to the defendant seeing the actions of another person, then this is usually charged as sudden passion without intent. There is usually some kind of adequate cause associated with the crime that’s committed, such as anger or resentment.
When the defendant reaches the portion of the trial when punishment is considered, the defendant or their attorney can bring forth the issue regarding whether or not the crime took place because of an adequate cause or if there was intent. If there is enough evidence to sustain that the crime occurred as a result of sudden passion, then the crime is usually considered a second-degree felony. Manslaughter is an example of this type of charge.
For example, say someone went home and caught their spouse in bed with another person. The partner grabs a gun or another weapon and kills 1 or both people who are committing the act without thinking about the consequences.
Punishments usually consist of fines up to $10,000 and prison time between 2 and 20 years.
To find out whether the sudden passion defense is possible in your case, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.