What is homicide?

Chloe Meltzer

June 07, 2022

Summary: Here is SoloSuit's guide on everything you should know about homicide and its different categories.

Homicide is something discussed in television shows, novels, and popular culture. In fact, many true crime dramas focus their storylines on homicides. Despite the topic being heavily involved in most of our lives, most people do not truly know what a homicide even is. Homicide occurs when someone dies due to the actions of another, but there is a distinction in the many forms of homicide as well. Let's break it down.

What is a homicide?

Homicide is the act of killing someone. Homicide is not only a term for illegal killing, it can also signify a legal killing. When someone dies during a war, it is still considered a homicide despite being legal. There are other situations as well where homicide is a legal killing and does not constitute a crime. The way you can distinguish between an illegal and legal killing is by using the terms murder and manslaughter.

If you or someone in your life has been arrested due to a connection with a homicide, then you may not fully understand what the charges mean. There are even differences between being charged with homicide, murder, and manslaughter. These can all be confusing, but they are all completely separate crimes.

Murder vs manslaughter

Although both murder and manslaughters are homicides, murder is killing on purpose and manslaughter is by accident. That being said, although there are big distinctions between the two, murder and manslaughter are both considered homicides.

Understanding murder

Murder is often defined as one person killing another person with malice or intent. This means that when something is defined as murder, there must have been the intention to kill beforehand. There are a few different methods of charging murder: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or capital murder.

Although different in every state, first-degree murder penalties are usually up to around 25 years in prison but can go as far as life in prison. First degree murder is awarded when someone purposefully kills another person or kills a child. Capital murder is a form of first degree murder with “special circumstances” that make the crime considerably worse. Usually, capital murder is punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or death.

However, felony murder is a subset of first-degree murder and is charged when someone is killed during the operation of a felony, such as a robbery or rape. For example, if two people rob a bank and one of the robbers dies during the crime, then then co-conspirator may be charged with felony murder. Even if the other robber is killed by the clerk in self defense, the one being charged with the felony is also charged for the murder.

When it comes to second-degree murder, it is a bit different. Second degree murder is that without any preconceived intention of killing. Examples of second degree murder might include someone firing a gun into a crowded room resulting in death. Another example would be if someone has multiple DUIs on their record and drives drunk another time which results in an accident that kills someone. Usually, the penalty is less, starting at around 15 years in prison.

The difference in manslaughter

Manslaughter is a homicide, but it is always categorized as the unintentional killing of another person. Manslaughter is usually awarded to cases where the crime is less severe than crimes of murder. Manslaughter can also be categorized as voluntary or involuntary.

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone kills another person without planning to do so in the first place. For example, if someone is killed during a bar fight, this would not be premeditated, but it would still be a homicide. However, because it was not premeditated, it is not murder. Penalties for voluntary manslaughter are usually much less than that of second degree murder.

However, involuntary manslaughter is when a person is killed by actions due to a disregard for life by another. Involuntary manslaughter is always committed without premeditation or the true intent to kill. Since this type of action results in the death of another person, there are still penalties surrounding involuntary manslaughter. Examples include driving under the influence, not restraining a dog that has a history of attacking, forcing employees to work in extreme conditions, etc. Usually, the sentence for involuntary manslaughter is no more than a few years in prison.

Finally, vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person dies in a car accident due to negligence. Such negligence includes texting while driving, distracted driving, reckless speeding, etc. Vehicular manslaughter is still homicide, but it is never considered outright murder.

Getting help for a homicide case

If you have been arrested or charged with any of the above crimes, then it is essential you speak to a lawyer. Homicide cases should not be taken lightly. They are very serious accusations and can land someone in prison for many years.

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