You may have heard people say that someone else was involved in a crime of passion. This is often brought up in reference to murder cases. What does this mean and why is it used as a defense?

The dictionary defines a crime of passion as one that takes place when someone is in the grip of “very strong emotional feelings.” It even goes so far as to note that these feelings may be connected to “a sexual relationship.”

The easiest example of this is an affair. A man comes home from work and finds his wife in bed with the neighbor. He is furious and he kills the neighbor. He’s then arrested on murder charges and says that it was a crime of passion.

The issue of intent

The goal here isn’t to claim that he did not take the other person’s life, but to show that it wasn’t murder. Generally, murder requires intent. It may require planning. The person being accused had the idea to commit murder, decided to do it and then carried out the act. This differentiates it from things like manslaughter, which are accidental deaths.

By claiming it was a crime of passion, the man is saying that he never planned on doing it and did not think about it in advance. He just reacted in the moment. Therefore, he claims that it wasn’t actually murder. There was no intent to take a life, even though he did so.

What this illustrates is that not every defense option means claiming that you did not commit a crime. There may be more options, often used to seek lesser charges. You need to know what they are when facing such serious allegations.