Those who are familiar with the law know that the words murder and homicide are often used interchangeably, but in reality, the two terms are quite different. The difference between murder and homicide is largely determined by the intent of the killer. The most heinous crimes, such as homicide and manslaughter, are punishable with very heavy criminal penalties, including prison time.
Murder is an intentional act of killing another person, while manslaughter is an unintentional killing. There are several different types of murder and manslaughter, and some of them carry very heavy criminal penalties. Generally, there are several degrees of murder, with the most serious of these crimes being first degree murder. Those convicted of first degree murder can be sentenced to life in prison.
Second degree murder is a very serious crime, but carries a much lesser penalty than first degree murder. It is usually related to crimes of passion, such as a husband who kills his wife in anger. However, it can also apply to a police officer who shoots a suspect to protect himself from a dangerous individual. It is also charged in cases where the defendant did not cause the death of the victim.
Those charged with murder must prove that the defendant committed the crime with malice. Malice is defined as knowing or having reason to believe that the person is doing or is about to do an evil act. For example, if a husband murders his wife in rage, he will be charged with second degree murder. However, if a husband kills his wife in a fit of rage because she is a jealous, aggressive woman, he will be charged with manslaughter.
In addition to the legal definitions of murder and homicide, there are statutes that make other important distinctions. These statutes, which derive from common law, make clear what is considered a murder and what is not. For instance, a court may hold that an act of self-defense is not a murder, but a justifiable homicide. Another example is the use of deadly force by military personnel in an emergency situation. These statutes also deal with other types of homicides.
Intentional killing can occur in many situations, such as self-defense and reckless acts. However, it is usually more difficult to prove that a person committed murder than manslaughter. Intent is usually identified by the actions of the person, such as the killer intentionally shooting a person who is in the process of committing a crime.
In addition to being more difficult to prove, murder is usually more serious than manslaughter. In many states, murder is charged as a capital offense, meaning that it carries a prison sentence. A defendant can also be charged with first or second degree murder, depending on the circumstances of the case. The severity of the crime and the age of the defendant will usually be taken into account during sentencing.
In addition to murder and homicide, there are a few other types of crimes, such as capital punishment and vehicular homicide. These crimes carry the same criminal penalties as murder and manslaughter, but the penalties may be less severe.