Heat of Passion

In criminal law, the term “heat of passion” refers to a state of violent and uncontrollable rage engendered by a blow or certain other provocation given, which will reduce a homicide form a grade of murder to that of a manslaughter.  Killing in the heat of passion is generally rendered by the law much less serious than killing “in cold blood.”

Reference Desk

People v. Steele, 27 Cal.4th 1230 (2002)

The heat of passion requirement for manslaughter has both an objective and a subjective component. (People v. Wickersham (1982) 32 Cal.3d 307, 326-327, 185 Cal.Rptr. 436, 650 P.2d 311.) The defendant must actually, subjectively, kill under the heat of passion. (Id. at p. 327, 450*450 185 Cal.Rptr. 436, 650 P.2d 311.) But the circumstances giving rise to the heat of passion are also viewed objectively. As we explained long ago in interpreting the same language of section 192, “this heat of passion must be such a passion as would naturally be aroused in the mind of an ordinarily reasonable person under the given facts and circumstances,” because “no defendant may set up his own standard of conduct and justify or excuse himself because in fact his passions were aroused, unless further the jury believe that the facts and circumstances were sufficient to arouse the passions of the ordinarily reasonable man.


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