Crime of Passion

In order to refute the mens rea requirement, the "crime of passion" defense asserts that there was no malice aforethought and that the crime was instead done in the "heat of passion." A successful "crime of passion" defense may lead to a conviction for manslaughter or second-degree murder in some jurisdictions rather than first-degree murder because a defendant cannot typically be found guilty of first-degree murder without proof that the crime was premeditated.

Meaning of Crime of Passion

A legal term known as "crime of passion" refers to criminal behaviour that is motivated by a strong emotional reaction to a provocation. These kinds of crimes are neither planned nor calculated.

The term "crime of passion" is derived from "crime passionnel" in French. It fits under the category of momentary insanity as a kind of defense. As it is linked to poor emotional regulation, it is sometimes referred to as the mental disorder defense.

An old-fashioned example of a crime of passion is when a partner is found in bed with someone else, and the spouse kills the romantic intruder. In the southern United States, particularly in Texas, crimes committed out of passion were frequently accepted. In Texas, unlike most other states, such offences were not only tolerated but they were also enshrined in the law as being acceptable.

Crime of Passion in Criminal Law

Crimes committed in the "heat of passion" or in response to provocation are referred to as crimes of passion in criminal law, as opposed to crimes that were planned out or considered. Provocation can reduce the severity of the crime and, thus, the punishment attached to it, even though it does not entirely absolve the defendant of the killing. This serves as a partial defense to a charge of murder.

For instance, proving a murder was committed in the heat of passion may reduce the allegation of murder to one of manslaughter. The purpose of the provocation defense is to acknowledge that some reactions can be elicited spontaneously without giving one the chance to pause and consider their conduct and that this does not satisfy the necessary mental state of premeditation or deliberation. A crime of passion must have a provocation that is intended to pique the emotions of a rational person.

Crime of Passion Affects a Murder Charge

In a murder or manslaughter case, a sudden passion cannot be used as a defense, and it will not be brought up while trying to establish a defendant's guilt or innocence. In other words, whether or not a person is found innocent or guilty of the killing would not change only because a "crime of passion" may have taken place.

If a person is ultimately found guilty, the crime of passion defense might be brought up during the punishment part of the trial. This can now considerably influence the severity of the sentence imposed for the offence.

Causes People to Commit Crimes of Passion

According to legend, those who commit crimes of passion are propelled by an instinct so powerful that it overrides their capacity for thought. These crimes are viewed as a natural reflection of an impending threat. Self-defence is the primary driving force behind most crimes of passion. But they can also happen when you're defending someone else.

Case Laws

K.M. Nanavati V. State of Maharashtra

The first crime of passion to occur in India occurred in the Nanavati case in 1962. In cases of crimes of passion, ex-lovers have attempted suicide and murder in the state's capital and surrounding areas. Typically, it is carried out in a hasty and unwavering manner out of resentment or jealousy. It is just as awful as a homicide since the perpetrator was driven by irrational rage and impulse.

Kiran Bedi emphasized that crimes of passion have been perpetrated in India and that both women and men who have committed these crimes are incarcerated. One such crime was the intentional dumping of acid on a woman after she was rejected in a love relationship.

Crime of Passion and Juries

There is debate concerning the function of juries in cases involving crimes of passion. Particularly in Brazil, there have been worries that the jury system is seriously broken since juries tend to be biassed and because the legal system gives jurors a great deal of power, and there is little that can be done even when a jury makes choices that are blatantly against the law. In Brazil, there is no such thing as a man's "right" to murder his wife; in fact, the legal right of a husband to murder his wife because she committed adultery was removed fairly early, in 1830.

Nevertheless, men have been acquitted of killing their spouses frequently during the 19th and 20th centuries, and this has continued into the 21st century. Men have been exonerated for killing spouses for a number of reasons, such as infidelity, making an attempt to end the relationship, and refusing to engage in sexual activity. The so-called legitimate defense of honour, which was employed in these trials, was declared by the Supreme Court to be without legal support in 1991.

However, the honourable defense has continued to be employed, as seen, for example, in a 2017 case of attempted murder where a man was exonerated for stabbing his ex-wife. Because a jury's judgement is final and cannot be changed, the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal. The legal defense of honour was examined by the Supreme Court in 2021 after it was requested to do so. The court reiterated its 1991 ruling that the defense is not part of Brazilian law and also declared it to be unconstitutional.

The ruling also gave the prosecution the option to challenge the jury's verdict on the grounds that it is invalid if the legal defense of honour has been used. It is still unclear how and whether it will be possible to apply the defense’s prohibition. Political leaders and legal experts have expressed grave concerns about the way juries are currently organised and run in Brazil.


A crime committed in the "heat of passion" is one that is done while a person is experiencing extreme rage or emotional distress. The accused was set off by something, and in the midst of his rage, he committed the crime. When a murder is carried out in the heat of passion, it is done so irrationally that it is effectively reduced to voluntary manslaughter.

The defendant typically raises the provocation defense in a crime of passion to lessen the severity of the charge. Finding your spouse in bed with someone else is a straightforward situation for anyone. The offender pulls out a handgun during the "heat of the moment" and shoots one or both of the concerned parties. A crime of passion, such as this, has occurred.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. How many types of legal system are there?

Ans. Civil law, common law, customary law, religious law, and mixed law are the five different types of legal systems. There are four categories of law in the Indian judicial system.

Q2. What is the crime of passion law?

Ans. However, a person does not commit the crime of murder if they were inspired to act by a rapid heat of emotion brought on by a legal provocation and before there had been a chance for the passion to cool and for a reason to assert itself. Law simply does not excuse such crime.

Q3. Who is the father of modern legal education in India?

Ans. Many people in India believe Neelakanta Ramakrishna Madhava Menon to be the founder of modern legal education. He was a lawyer, legal educator, and member of the Indian civil service. He is credited with founding the network of National Law Universities.

Updated on: 08-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started