A crime of passion is committed under extreme emotional circumstances and frequently involves discovering disturbing behavior on the part of a lover or spouse, which allegedly creates a state of temporary insanity in the person committing the crime. It is both an act and a legal defense. Temporary insanity may be the more common defense than crime of passion, and when used by a defendant, part of the goal is to get sentencing reduced or eliminated on a crime that the defendant has clearly committed, like serious assault or murder. It’s not a perfect defense and it’s not acceptable everywhere. There’s some effort in some jurisdictions to eliminate this defense, with legal experts stating that murder or assault are not excusable even when someone is deeply upset. In contrast, the defense has been extremely effective in other locations, where juries seem most likely to forgive total rage or upset that might immediately follow discovery of tremendously upsetting information.
In most cases, for a defense of crime of passion to be valid, there has to be very little time elapsing between discovery and criminal act. A person who comes home to find a spouse in the act of infidelity and immediately violently attacks and/or kills the spouse and possibly the lover, might have a better chance of arguing this was a crime of passion than someone who didn’t commit the crime right away. In the latter case, the person might still argue temporary insanity, if the discovery led to a verifiably insane state. Yet this type of crime is generally fairly immediate, and little chance of proving this defense exists if any type of planning can be proven.
Planning is essential to the crime of passion defense. Anytime an act of violence is planned or thought out, the crime may be called premeditated, which tends to result in much harsher sentencing. When a defendant’s attorneys can prove that no premeditation exists, even serious and greatly disturbing crimes may receive lighter sentences. Certain sentences like life in prison or death sentences could be eliminated with successful proof that the crime was passionate in nature or a result of the person suddenly snapping. This is only the case in regions where the defense is accepted; again, most regions may evaluate cases differently when temporary insanity is claimed.
Despite the potential attractiveness from a sentencing standpoint of claiming a crime of passion defense, it isn’t always the best argument to make. It does admit the crime, which might reduce chances of acquittal. Crimes of passion are not necessarily tied to acquittal and may only reduce sentencing. Proving innocence may still be better, and it isn’t always possible to convince a jury that enough upset existed to qualify a crime as passionate in nature. Previous history, such as abusive behavior toward a spouse that is then killed, would probably make this an unsuccessful defense.