2011 2a1_1


Introductory Commentary

Chapter Two pertains to offense conduct.  The chapter is organized by offenses and divided into parts and related sections that may cover one statute or many.  Each offense has a corresponding base offense level and may have one or more specific offense characteristics that adjust the offense level upward or downward.  Certain factors relevant to the offense that are not covered in specific guidelines in Chapter Two are set forth in Chapter Three, Parts A (Victim-Related Adjustments), B (Role in the Offense), and C (Obstruction and Related Adjustments); Chapter Four, Part B (Career Offenders and Criminal Livelihood); and Chapter Five, Part K (Departures).

Historical Note:  Effective November 1, 1987.  Amended effective November 1, 2011 (see Appendix C, amendment 758).


1.      HOMICIDE

§2A1.1.     First Degree Murder

(a)       Base Offense Level:  43


Statutory Provisions:  18 U.S.C. §§ 1111, 1841(a)(2)(C), 1992(a)(7), 2113(e), 2118(c)(2), 2199, 2282A, 2291, 2332b(a)(1), 2340A; 21 U.S.C. § 848(e).  For additional statutory provision(s), see Appendix A (Statutory Index).

Application Notes:

1.      Applicability of Guideline.—This guideline applies in cases of premeditated killing.  This guideline also applies when death results from the commission of certain felonies.  For example, this guideline may be applied as a result of a cross reference (e.g., a kidnapping in which death occurs, see §2A4.1(c)(1)), or in cases in which the offense level of a guideline is calculated using the underlying crime (e.g., murder in aid of racketeering, see §2E1.3(a)(2)).

2.      Imposition of Life Sentence.—

(A)     Offenses Involving Premeditated Killing.—In the case of premeditated killing, life imprisonment is the appropriate sentence if a sentence of death is not imposed.  A downward departure would not be appropriate in such a case.  A downward departure from a mandatory statutory term of life imprisonment is permissible only in cases in which the government files a motion for a downward departure for the defendant's substantial assistance, as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e).

(B)     Felony Murder.—If the defendant did not cause the death intentionally or knowingly, a downward departure may be warranted.  For example, a downward departure may be warranted if in robbing a bank, the defendant merely passed a note to the teller, as a result of which the teller had a heart attack and died.  The extent of the departure should be based upon the defendant's state of mind (e.g., recklessness or negligence), the degree of risk inherent in the conduct, and the nature of the underlying offense conduct.  However, departure below the minimum guideline sentence provided for second degree murder in §2A1.2 (Second Degree Murder) is not likely to be appropriate.  Also, because death obviously is an aggravating factor, it necessarily would be inappropriate to impose a sentence at a level below that which the guideline for the underlying offense requires in the absence of death.

3.      Applicability of Guideline When Death Sentence Not Imposed.—If the defendant is sentenced pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3591 et seq. or 21 U.S.C. § 848(e), a sentence of death may be imposed under the specific provisions contained in that statute.  This guideline applies when a sentence of death is not imposed under those specific provisions.

Historical Note:  Effective November 1, 1987.  Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendment 82); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 310); November 1, 1993 (see Appendix C, amendment 476); November 1, 2002 (see Appendix C, amendment 637); November 1, 2004 (see Appendix C, amendment 663); November 1, 2006 (see Appendix C, amendment 685); November 1, 2007 (see Appendix C, amendments 699 and 700); November 1, 2010 (see Appendix C, amendment 746).