Homicide is the killing of one person by another. An act of homicide is a crime, and a homicide victim is a victim. Homicide law is a broad term that includes a range of offenses, such as murder and manslaughter.
In general, the types of sentences you receive for a homicide case will largely depend on the circumstances of the crime. A lenient sentence may be appropriate in cases where a person accidentally killed and acted out of self-defense or necessity. Conversely, premeditated killings are punishable by life in prison or the death penalty in states that have not abolished them. Homicide cases are among the most serious of all criminal proceedings. Those accused of any homicide crime should seek immediate assistance from a qualified criminal defense lawyer.
Civilized countries usually charge a person with murder when it's determined that their actions or inactions led to the death of another individual.
Historically, crimes such as homicide were a matter of common law. These were created and defined through an evolving body of court decisions. These decisions were made by judges or juries who deemed the case before it met the definition of common law murder. Year after year, the definitional boundaries of common law murder became wider and wider with each new case. In modern times, this form of homicide has been codified into statutory law in most states.
First-degree murder requires that the defendant acted deliberately and dispassionately with premeditation. Second-degree murder also requires that the act was intentional (not accidental) and that the defendant acted recklessly. Other than that, the two crimes are identical.
In an era when it can be challenging to differentiate between "murder" and "justifiable homicide," the difference between first and second-degree murder will control which criminal defenses are available. For example, because the first degree requires that the defendant had a pre-existing intent to commit a severe crime, intoxication may be invoked as a defense. This "intent" is required in addition to the action-taking. However, second-degree murder does not require a specific mental state. So intoxication is not a valid defense.
Manslaughter offenses come with different degrees of charges. Murder is the most severe of the manslaughter offenses and carries a sentence of life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Also considered manslaughter offenses include the following:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Vehicular manslaughter
These charges come with different degrees of charges. And involuntary manslaughter can have lesser consequences than voluntary manslaughter.
The difference between murder and voluntary manslaughter lies not only in a distinction in the type of intent between the two crimes but also in their provocation. In addition to legal definitions, common usage has evolved to distinguish a "cold-blooded killing versus a heated one."
The time that passed between the provocation and the killing can determine whether or not a murder charge can be reduced to voluntary manslaughter. The time that passed between the provocation and the killing will determine whether or not the killing may qualify for a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter.
The related crime of involuntary manslaughter differs from both voluntary manslaughter and murder. Voluntary manslaughter requires the defendant to be mad, jealous, distraught, or to suffer from an extreme emotional disturbance. To be convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the defendant's intent must be to kill the victim.
In the Attempt (or in the Commission) of a Felony
Most people have a clear feeling when we hear the phrase "felony murder," and it's usually not good. This legal doctrine, wherein homicide occurs while a defendant is committing another crime, makes him just as responsible for the death as the person who pulled the trigger and is often criticized as unjust.
Even so, it's widely used. Most homicide convictions are based on killings that occur during the commission of other crimes (known as "felony murders").
Nevertheless, the law places some limits on this type of criminal liability. A defendant can't be held liable for the death of another person when there's no evidence that he intended to kill or injure that person.
To be guilty of felony murder, the government must prove an "underlying crime" that was "purposeful and premeditated." Generally speaking, the underlying crime must also be "serious" or "violent" and result in death.
There are also restrictions on whose death can form the basis of a felony murder charge. For example, the killing of bystanders will satisfy these statutes, but the killing of a co-conspirator generally will not.
Terrible crimes require terrible repercussions; there's no denying that. However, when these terrible people commit these terrible crimes, both partieswho've suffered tremendouslyneed as skilled of an attorney as they can.
If you are accused of causing someone's death, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Every bit of evidence must be gathered, reviewed, and used to form a defense that will persuade a jury that you are not responsible.