Legal Dictionary

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Crime of Passion

A crime of passion is a crime that has been committed under extreme rage or emotional disturbance (commonly referred to as “heat of passion”)—something provoked the defendant, who in the heat of passion, committed the crime. A killing that occurs under the heat of passion is done without premeditation, which essentially reduces a killing from murder to a voluntary manslaughter.

When a crime of passion occurs, the defendant puts forth a provocation defense to lessen the severity of the charge. The classic example is the man who discovers his wife in bed with another man. The man grabs his gun and shoots both of them to death while in the “heat of passion.” The law in most states (including California) is that this killing is viewed not as a murder but rather as voluntary manslaughter.