Homicide is the killing of one person by the act or negligence of another person. The word homicide refers to all such killings whether or not they are criminal in nature. Homicide may not be considered criminal in situations where the killing is legally justified or excused including wartime deaths, killings authorized through death penalty sentences, self defense motivated killings, and more. For homicide to be criminal, the person who commits the act must have intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently caused the death of another person.

Murder and manslaughter are both considered criminal acts of homicide. Criminal homicide is prescribed degrees which indicate the severity of the crime. The classification of homicide involves the most complex grading system used in any area of criminal law. Generally speaking, the lower the degree the more severe the homicide crime and punishment. For homicide to be considered criminal murder, the court will typically have to show that the killer had malice aforethought, or the deliberate intention, to commit murder or inflict serious bodily injury. This malice is also presumed in cases where the person acted with great disregard for human life. Homicide is criminal murder when a person is killed in the course of a felony crime. All persons who carried out the felony can be charged with criminal homicide, not just the actual killer.

First degree murder generally considered the calculated act of homicide that is committed with malice aforethought. First degree murder often involves aggravating factors which increase the punishment for this type of homicide. Aggravating factors can include killing a police officer or child, multiple homicides, and more. Many states consider first degree homicide a capital offence for which the convicted might receive the death penalty. States which do not recognize the death penalty may sentence a person convicted of first degree murder to life in prison without parole.

Second degree murder is criminal homicide that is deemed less severe than first degree murder. The distinction between the first degree and second degree varies by state and circumstance. Sometimes the charge is based on the prosecutor's decision more so than the actual circumstances of the homicide. Generally speaking, second degree murder is homicide that is committed with malice but not with deliberation or premeditation.

Manslaughter is a less severe crime of homicide that is committed without the intent to murder, such as in cases of criminal negligence which result in death. Criminal negligence can include careless or reckless use of a vehicle, firearm, animals, medicine, and the like. In common law, the year and a day rule was often applied, meaning that if someone died within a year and a day of another party's act or negligence the latter could be held responsible in a homicide case.

If you or a loved one is involved in a criminal case involving homicide you need the best defense possible. To learn more about your legal rights and options in a homicide case, please contact us to speak with a highly qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect and maximize your legal interests.

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