A crime of passion might sound like something that is made up for Valentine’s Day, but it is an actual legal term in criminal law when a crime is committed in the “heat of passion.” A crime of passion doesn’t always involve love and desire. In fact, it more often involves momentary outrage.

To be considered an act of passion, the person committing the crime must have been provoked in such a way that they had no immediate control over their actions – that they were unable to think clearly because of overwhelming emotions. This is not technically a criminal defense because the defendant admits to committing the crime, but emotions take at least part of the blame for their actions. Motive often makes a difference in the charges and outcomes for someone convicted of a crime, and an immediate, uncontrollable emotional response means the crime was not premeditated or thought out beforehand. Therefore, pleading guilty to a crime committed during the heat of passion will not get a case dismissed, but if successful, it will down-grade the conviction and sentencing that follows.

Most crimes of passion are not about love, but they do frequently occur between or around people in a relationship. For example, a husband or wife who suddenly discovers a spouse’s lover and immediately assaults him or her may be committing a crime of passion, but they’re still committing a crime. On the other hand, domestic violence may look like a crime of passion when an abused person “snaps” and hits or even kills their abuser. However, it’s likely more powerful to use self-defense as a case strategy. If it’s the other way around, and the abuser hits or kills the other person, the abuser would have a hard time proving they acted in a fit of rage since there’s a history of assault. In such a case, it remains a crime of domestic violence.

While sex crimes might seem like a crime of passion they’re generally not despite the connotation. To meet the definition of “crime of passion” a defense attorney must demonstrate that their client acted out of raw emotion or rage as another reasonable person might do given the same provocation. Rage isn’t an emotion that most reasonable people associate with that type of criminal act. While falsely accusing someone of a sex crime, could be done out of raw emotion, false reporting doesn’t generally happen all at once in a fit of rage either.

Domestic violence in the form of assault, battery, and even homicide can occur when passions of the heart are involved. It is important to stay calm and try to use sound judgment and decision-making rather than raw emotion. When rage clouds the mind, it’s hard to think, but sometimes it means you just have to leave the room or get away from whatever is provoking you because if you commit a crime of passion, the police will still charge you with a crime. If you have acted when you were momentarily unable to think clearly and find yourself facing charges for a crime of passion or any other crime, it’s important to seek the advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. What’s more serious than forgetting to buy flowers for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day? Being investigated for a crime of passion, sex crime, or a crime of any kind is.

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Sources and Related Resources:

What is heat of passion? (www.findlaw.com)

Defending Yourself Against a Criminal Charge (www.findlaw.com)