What are Crimes Motivated By Heat of Passion
Heat of passion crimes refers to crimes committed by individuals who witness a situation which causes them to be consumed by rage or are unable to control their anger. These acts by definition cannot contain any premeditation. They must occur spontaneously.
Situations which cause people to act in the heat of passion are situations in which a reasonable person test is difficult to conduct. A defense will often attempt to employ the argument that the defendant acted in the heat of passion and is, as a result, not liable for the results of his actions due to a bout of temporary insanity. If the jury refuses to find the defendant not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, the heat of passion defense may be used to sustain a lower charge on the indictment, such as manslaughter instead of second degree murder.
Defenses claiming that their client acted in the heat of passion are common in cases where the killer has been cuckolded or the killer and victim were engaged in a bar fight. Cuckolding occurs when a wife cheats on her husband. The heat of passion of the crime can be aroused in the husband in several different ways. The first is if he is informed of his wife's infidelity, and in short succession of learning of the infidelity kills his wife, her lover, or both while he is possessed by the heat of passion.
A cuckold, or husband who has been cheated on, may also be driven by a heat of passion by discovering his wife active in bed with her lover and immediately kill them both, or kill his wife when and if she confronts him with her infidelity. Although it is usual for the wife to be the victim when a husband is in the heat of passion, she sometimes is not the target of his wrath and the full heat of passion is sometimes directed solely against her lover.
For a cuckold to be seen as acting in the heat of passion it is essential that only a minimal, if any, amount of time may pass between his discovery of the affair and the commission of the crime. If it can be proven that the killing or killings were an attempt to seek revenge, a defense that the killer acted in the heat of passion is invalidated. Although the killer is usually a husband discovering the infidelities of a wife, it is also possible for a wife to kill her husband as the result of discovering he has been unfaithful.
Although cuckoldry is the most complex crime that is usually committed in the heat of passion, a bar fight that turns fatal can also be seen as a heat of passion killing. Bar fights are distinct in this manner among fights because, whereas other fights are typically prearranged, bar fights are typically spontaneous.
A bar fight typically has only a short period of escalation. Only in the most peculiar circumstances does an individual entering a bar begin the night with the intention of killing a person in a fight. As a result, the killing is generally considered to be a heat of passion crime, unless evidence can be found which shows that the person acted in some extreme manner to change the normal circumstances which would lead a fight in a bar.