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Homicide, manslaughter, and murder: what’s the difference?

May 27th, 2013 at 1:14 pm

When watching shows like Law & Order or even the news, the terms manslaughter, homicide, and murder are used frequently and very rarely explained.  However, it can be helpful to be aware of the technical differences between the three terms.

In the state of Illinois, homicide is defined as the killing of one person by another.  Murder and manslaughter are different types of homicide.

Lara May 22Homicides can be classified as criminal, excusable, or justifiable.  Criminal homicides are classified as unjustifiable and lead to very severe consequences.  If the homicide is excusable or justifiable, there was no criminal intent to kill someone (for example self-defense, defending another person, etc.)

Murder in particular is defined as the unlawful killing of another human being with malice.  There are four different ways that malice can be shown, according to the state.  These ways include the intent to kill, the intent to inflict great bodily injury, reckless indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to human life, and the intent to commit a felony.

Murder is subdivided further into the two categories of first-degree and second-degree.  First-degree murder in Illinois is classified as the killing of an individual without lawful justification.  The person committing the crime either intends and plans to kill or do great bodily harm to the individual or else knows their act has a high probability of leading to death or great bodily harm.

Second-degree murder, on the other hand, involves a killing that is not premeditated.  If you commit second-degree murder, you have intentionally killed somebody but were not planning to do so ahead of time.

And then there is manslaughter, which is the unlawful killing of another human being.  However, it is done without malice and includes two different types: voluntary and involuntary.  In voluntary manslaughter, a human being is killed after the offender had no intent to kill but merely acted in “the heat of passion.”  This refers to an intensely emotional state of mind induced by some sort of provocation.

Involuntary manslaughter involves unintentionally killing an individual without lawful justification.  In this category, the offender has also recklessly performed an action that was likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

While the differences between these terms are simple when explained, they are often hard to remember.  If you have the misfortune of being involved in a murder/homicide/manslaughter case or simply have any questions about the details of each term, contact an experienced Illinois criminal attorney.

 

Image courtesy of Simon Howden/Freedigitalphotos

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