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Homicide Laws

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What Is Homicide?

Homicide is the killing of another human being. The definition of homicide includes intentional killings, such as murder, and non-intentional killings, such as manslaughter. Homicides, especially culpable homicides, are violent felonies and carry very severe punishments.

The two most common types of homicide:

Other types of homicide include:

What Are the Differences between the Types of Homicides?

The exact distinctions between the types of homicide will vary from state to state. In general though, there are two classes of homicide, murder and manslaughter, with two different degrees for each.


  1. First-degree murder is the intentional, malicious, premeditated, and deliberate killing of another. Murder committed during an inherently dangerous felony is also considered first-degree murder.
  2. Second-degree murder is killing of another with the intent to cause death but without premeditation or deliberation. Second-degree murder covers “accidental” killings where someone other than the intended target is killed. Second-degree murder is often a catch-all for murders which cannot be classified as manslaughter.


  1. Voluntary manslaughter is killing as a result of “passion” or where an individual was “provoked.” Note that “passion” doesn’t mean anger, but any extreme emotion that suspends a person’s judgment. “Provoked” means the defendant is often confronted physically and responds by into committing the murder. Note that the provocation must be adequate enough that a reasonable person of sound mind would likely respond in a similar way. Provocation also includes an imperfect self-defense, where the killer uses more force than necessary or initiates the attack.
  2. Involuntary manslaughter is the killing of another person not through intentional actions, but through reckless or negligent conduct. Vehicular manslaughter was once a significant portion of involuntary manslaughter and may still be in some states. However, many states have chosen to have vehicular manslaughter as a third type of manslaughter rather than group it with other forms of involuntary manslaughter.

What Are the Consequences of a Homicide Conviction?

There are severe consequences the come from a murder conviction:

  • Capital Punishment (for first-degree murder only)
  • Imprisonment
  • Loss of the right to possess deadly weapons
  • Inability to get occupational licenses
  • Subject to civil suit for wrongful death

Likelihood of any of the above consequences depends on the following factors:

  • Mitigating/aggravating circumstances (with regard to death penalty cases)
  • Prior Convictions
  • Currently on probation or parole
  • Degree of media attention on the case
  • Type of weapon used

Family Members of Homicide Victims

If you are a family member of a homicide victim and a case is currently being investigated or prosecuted, you should consider speaking with an attorney about bringing a wrongful death suit against the person who committed the homicide. While money will never bring back your loved one, it can help cover bills and expenses, and bring you a small bit of peace.

Seeking Legal Advice

If you are or believe you may be accused of committing a homicide, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to learn more about your rights and your defenses.

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 12-20-2016 05:09 PM PST

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