Heat of Passion – rage, terror, or furious anger suddenly aroused by another person’s words or actions, thereby reducing a murder charge to manslaughter

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heat of passion:
(bef. 12c)

1. Rage, terror, or furious hatred suddenly aroused by some immediate provocation, usually another person’s words or actions.  *  At common law, heat of passion could serve as a mitigating circumstance to reduce a murder charge to manslaughter if the provocation was objectively adequate, if there was inadequate time to cool off, and if the provocation and passion were causally linked to the homicide. — aka sudden heat of passion; sudden heat; sudden passion; hot blood; sudden heat and passion; furor brevis.  See adequate provocation under PROVOCATION. Cf. partial excuse under EXCUSE (2); COLD BLOOD; COOL BLOOD. [1]

1. The expression for a mental state on the part of the accused reducing the offense of the killing of a person from murder to manslaughter; heat in the sense of an emotional state, produced by an adequate or reasonable provocation and before a reasonable time has elapsed for the blood to cool and reason to assume its habitual control. State v Forsha, 190 mo 296, 88 SW 746; State v Seaton, 106 Mo 198, 204; Johnson v State, 129 Wis 146, 108 NW 55. [2]

1. The expression for a mental state on the part of a criminal defendant adequate in law to reduce the crime of murder to manslaughter.  In this context, “heat” means an emotional state which created reasonable provocation (EXAMPLES: anger; fury; panic), and before a sufficient time had elapsed for reason to return.
     Compare premeditation. [3]

     Excerpt from Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce’s Criminal Law (3d ed. 1982):

     “To constitute the heat of passion included in this requirement it is not necessary for the passion to be so extreme that the slayer does not know what he is doing at the time; but it must be so extreme that for the moment his action is being directed by passion rather than by reason. [4]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law 99 (3d ed. 1982).


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