Murder is a very serious charge, and so the standards of proof that must be met are quite high. For the highest level of charges, one thing that has to be shown is that there was intent to take the other person's life.

This is typically referred to as malice aforethought. It's often used for murder cases of the first and second degree. Generally speaking, it means that the person who is accused made a plan to take someone's life beforehand -- even just a short time before -- and then acted directly with that goal in mind.


The above standard is used to separate murder charges from accidental killings. A person can be negligent and cause a death without meaning to do so. This often brings about manslaughter charges. That person is still responsible, and the death would not have happened without them, but it was never his or her goal to take a life. That person may be just as devastated by the death as anyone else.

Why Intent Can Be Hard to Prove

Evidence of intent is needed, and it can sometimes be difficult to prove. In cases where there is not clear evidence -- a text message to a friend, for example -- only the person who carried out the crime may know if he or she intamost serious accusations, the ramifications can be life-changing. Everyone deserves a fair trial, and all who are accused must know what options they have, what standard of proof is being used, and what evidence is needed for a conviction.