Know the Difference between Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter

Know the Difference Between Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter

Killing is a capital offense in a court of law mostly attracting a death or life imprisonment sentence. However, different types of criminal homicides exist. Every state in the US has a distinct classification of homicide. The similarity in all states is that these criminal cases fall into three broad categories, namely:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Homicide

If you or your loved one is involved in a homicide, consult an experienced, reputable criminal defense attorney for assistance.

Homicide vs. Murders


Murder gets subdivided into several sub-categories. The most familiar of these subdivisions are the first and second-degree murders. The first-degree murder is the most capital homicide offense. It is applicable in cases where an individual is accused of planning and killing the victim.

This murder definition requires malice and forethought. Due to the heinous nature of these crimes, those charged are usually convicted with the most severe punishments. Death penalty and life in prison are the common convictions in this category.

Second-degree murder is a crime of passion. Someone may have the intention to kill but did not have time to plan it. For example, a murder committed of love and betrayal.

Cases of reckless behaviors without motives leading to the death of someone are also categorized as second-degree murders in some states. This category of murder depends on gravity, and the defendant may face harsh sentences including imprisonment. However, the death sentence is not a preference in this case.


Manslaughter is also defined as third-degree murder. It can either be voluntary or involuntary. Involuntary, killing is done with a conscious disregard for human life. No malice aforethought exists. The killings of this nature need some provocative act that justifies an extreme emotional response. Crimes of passion do not rise to murder levels since the perpetrator experiences heightened emotions that affect their behavior.

Involuntary manslaughter features the unintended homicide and reckless disregard for human life. The charges for manslaughter are reversible. If the defense attorney proves that the accused did not intend for loss of life through their actions, the judge may reverse the sentence. These charges often arise from random events that cause unintended loss of life.

For example, a doctor is charged with involuntary manslaughter for prescription drugs that result in lethal interaction, and eventually death of the patient. The sentences for these cases differ broadly subject to the circumstances leading to the event in question.

State laws also affect the sentences significantly. However, the punishments are less severe than those handed to second-degree murder convicts.

Justifiable Homicide

Homicide definition occurs when an individual kills another in self-defense, it is considered as a justifiable homicide. It is not viewed as a legal charge. The prosecution and police use this term cases where no crime was committed.
An attorney may also use this angle to argue their case in a homicide prosecution. When they prove that the killing was justifiable, the perpetrator is not held criminally liable for the death of the victim. But, various civil penalties are applicable under particular circumstances.

Other Homicides

Several states have come up with different categories of homicide crimes. For example, the felony murder charge is a common trend lately. In this case, death occurs while the defendant gets involved in a crime but did not cause death directly.

If you or your loved one gets arrested for murder, manslaughter or homicide, call The Law Office of Jaimee C. McDowell immediately at 301-539-9740 or 240-222-3695 to speak with a criminal defense attorney.