heat of passion

Primary tabs

Heat of passion is a mitigating factor that may be raised by an accused criminal, claiming to have been in an uncontrollable rage, terror, or fury at the time of the alleged crime, especially one provoked by the victim. Heat of passion defense is used to negate the element of malice in a murder prosecution. In U.S. v. Visinaiz, it was held that in order to satisfy the element of malice aforethought in a murder prosecution, the government must prove the absence of heat of passion beyond a reasonable doubt

Heat of passion has also been defined by multiple courts. The Tenth Circuit in the aforementioned case of Visinaiz defined heat of passion as “such a state of passion, or hot blood, or rage, anger, resentment, terror or fear as to indicate the absence of deliberate design to kill or as to cause one to act on impulse without reflection”. In U.S. v. Browner, the Fifth Circuit defined heat of passion as “a passion of fear or rage in which the defendant loses his normal self-control as a result of circumstances that would provoke such a passion in an ordinary person, but which did not justify the use of deadly force.”

See also: crime of passion

[Last updated in February of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]