A crime of passion, or crime passionnel, in popular usage, refers to a violent crime, especially murder, in which the perpetrator commits the act against someone because of sudden strong impulse such as sudden rage or heartbreak rather than as a premeditated crime. The act, as is suggested by the name (crime passionnel – from French language) is often associated with the history of France. However, such crimes have existed and continue to exist in most cultures.
A crime of passion refers to a criminal act in which the perpetrator commits a crime, especially murder or assault, against someone because of sudden strong impulse such as sudden rage or heartbreak rather than as a premeditated crime. A typical crime of passion might involve an aggressive pub-goer who assaults another guest following an argument or a husband who discovers his wife has made him a cuckold and proceeds to brutally batter or even kill his wife and the man with whom she was involved.
In the United States civil courts, a crime of passion is referred to as “temporary insanity”. This defense was first used by U.S. Congressman Daniel Sickles of New York in 1859 after he had killed his wife’s lover, Philip Barton Key, but was most used during the 1940s and 1950s.
In some countries, notably France, crime passionnel (or crime of passion) was a valid defense during murder cases; during the 19th century, some cases could be a custodial sentence for two years for the murderer, while the spouse was dead; this ended in France as the Napoleonic code was updated in the 1970s so that a specific father’s authority upon his whole family was over.
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