Difference Between Homicide and Murders: What You Should Know

Difference between homicide and murders

What is the difference between homicide and murders? Over time, it’s been a prevalent misconception that homicide and murder are synonymous. However, there is a significant distinction between these two offenses in legal terms. If convicted, each one has a maximum sentence.

Both criminal statutes demand a deeper examination of the factors that characterize homicide and murder. The fundamental difference between homicide and murders, like other criminal statutes, is dependent on the facts.

And knowing the difference between the two is crucial if you ever find yourself in court facing allegations of one of these crimes. Let’s go into deeper details.

Difference Between Homicide and Murders at a Glance

Killing with malice or with purposeAny murder committed by a human being against another
Unlawful, as in not supported by lawJustifiable killing, whether done in self-defense or not
With the purpose to kill someone without a valid reason or excuse, also known as with malice aforethought.Though unlawful homicide is seen as a crime similar to murder and manslaughter, it may not necessarily be illegal.
Intentional physical damage that results in the victim’s demise
Actions that are very careless with human life and end in the victim’s death
Difference Between Homicide and Murders

Difference Between Homicide and Murders

The preceding paragraphs cover a comprehensive description of the difference between murders and homicide.


While some people mistakenly confuse homicide with murder, the legal definitions of the two crimes are vastly different. Homicide is a broad term used to describe various occasions where a crime was perpetrated against a person. It is simply defined as “the wrongful killing of one human being by another.” Murders, on the other hand, are a subcategory of this category.

You have not committed a crime if you murder someone in a legitimate act of self-defense. However, because self-defense must be shown and is sometimes a vague phrase that requires legal backing as well as court confirmation, it is strongly recommended that you contact a dedicated criminal defense attorney in the US to help ensure that the action has no negative implications.


Murder is a phrase for “criminal homicide” in the United States, and it is a capital offense. To put it another way, killing another person in a way that cannot be justified as reasonable is deemed murder — or manslaughter — and carries extraordinarily harsh consequences, including the death penalty in some jurisdictions.

Difference Between Homicide and Murders: What Does Murder Mean in Legal Terms?

Murder was defined as an intentional killing under the common law (law derived from custom and court decisions rather than statutes) as follows:

Unlawful (that is, not legal) and done with “malice aforethought.” Malice aforethought does not imply that a killer acted out of vengeance or hatred.

If a defendant plans to kill someone without legal cause or excuse, it is a crime. Furthermore, malice aforethought isn’t confined to premeditated deaths in most states. It’s also possible if the killer:

Inflicts substantial bodily harm on the victim that results in death, or acts in a way that demonstrates an excessive, reckless disdain for life that results in the victim’s death.

Murder is now defined by statute rather than common law in today’s culture. Despite the fact that today’s statutes are derived from common law, key distinctions, such as the distinction between first- and second-degree murder, must be found in these statutes.

Manslaughter Compared

Manslaughter is a similar but separate offense. It has to do with the killing of another individual, just like murder. Manslaughter, on the other hand, does not involve the same level of “malice” as murder. In real-life criminal cases, a jury’s decision between murder and manslaughter may be based less on abstract legal standards and more on a moral assessment of the offender.

Read Also: FIRST DEGREE MANSLAUGHTER: Charges and Sentences

First Degree Murder vs. Second Degree Murder

Even among individuals who kill with malice aforethought, the law considers some to be more dangerous and morally culpable than others. These suspects are charged with first-degree murder. Killings, on the other hand, that aren’t first-degree murder but involve malice are usually classified as second-degree murder.

Meanwhile, the circumstances that make an intentional killing first-degree murder vary slightly from state to state, but the following are popular examples:

The Murder Was Premeditated and Planned:

In other words, the killer had decided to kill and had some time to think about it, however brief. A wife going to the market, buying a lethal amount of rat poison, and placing it in her husband’s tea is an obvious example of premeditation.

The Murder Takes Place During the Commission of a Serious Crime

“Felony murder” is a term used to describe this type of crime. Even if the person is not the killer, he or she can be charged with murder if a death occurs during the commission of a severe offense.

In most states, the death must have been a foreseen consequence of the original crime. Assume that Jean sets a house on fire as an example of arson. Chris, a firefighter, is killed while attempting to put out the fire. Jean would be charged with felony murder in this case because a fatality occurred during the commission of a hazardous felony and the death was a foreseen consequence of the defendant’s actions. (Jean might also be charged with traditional murder if he behaved with malice aforethought.)

In most states, a defendant who did not cause the death of an accomplice directly is not automatically held criminally accountable. Let’s assume that Bill and Janice break into a residence. A police officer shoots and kills Janice as they attempt to flee with the booty. Even when a fatality happens during the commission of a severe crime, Bill may not be guilty of first-degree murder.

An explosive device, such as a bomb, is used by the assailant. The statute defining first-degree murder in California, for example, defines various ways in which the offense can occur.

“All murder committed by means of a destructive weapon or explosion… or by any other sort of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing… is murder in the first degree,” it declares in part. 189 (2021) of the California Penal Code.

Punishment for Murder

Murder is punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty in many states. For first-degree murder, the obligatory minimum is usually always higher than for second-degree murder.

Defendants convicted of first-degree murder may face the death penalty as well. The death penalty is still used by many states and the federal government. The maximum penalty for individuals who do not comply is life in jail without the possibility of parole.

Second-degree murder defendants are often sentenced to a term of years rather than life in prison, and they are often eligible for parole.

Difference Between Homicide and Murder: What Is a Homicide?

When one person kills another, this is known as a homicide. The only criterion for calling an act a homicide is that it was done voluntarily. Simply put, a volitional act occurs when one individual decides to do something and then follows through on their decision. And because of the broad definition, a homicide could be the result of careless or negligent conduct, or it could even be an accident.

Even if Person A has no intention of harming Person B, homicides occur. Homicides come in a variety of forms. There are other kinds of murder, in addition to the ones most people are familiar with, such as murder and manslaughter.

Justifiable Homicide

Justifiable homicide is a legal defense that happens when there is adequate evidence to disprove the accused illegal act.

In the United States, justifiable homicide is oftentimes considered in cases where the death occurred as a result of Person A’s self-defense.

Furthermore, if the homicide was committed to prevent the deceased from committing a violent crime, such as armed robbery, murder, or rape, it is also considered justifiable. However, many states impose a duty to retreat on a defendant who claims self-defense, which means the defendant must first flee to safety and only act in self-defense if absolutely necessary.


Person A ends the life of Person B so that Person B no longer has to struggle with pain and suffering caused by physical or mental disorders.

Euthanasia laws differ widely from country to country, as do personal views on the sensitive matter. In fact, it has been the most active category of bioethics study since 2006.

Passive euthanasia has long been prevalent (for example, when Person B’s cognitive function has deteriorated and Person A is tasked with “pulling the plug”), but euthanizing consenting, cognitively capable people remains a gray issue.

Capital Punishment

Another outstanding example of homicide is the death sentence, sometimes known as capital punishment. An execution is a legal kind of homicide that is carried out as a state-sanctioned punishment for wrongdoing. There are a vast variety of offenses that are punished by death. Examples include murder, child sexual abuse, terrorism, war crimes, treason, and, in some situations, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and drug trafficking.

In reality, the list of crimes that might result in death is extensive, and the ones listed here are only a small sample.

In the United States, capital punishment is used by 27 states, American Samoa, the federal government, and the military. Furthermore, the death sentence is contentious, even though it is legal in several locations.

However, to date, the punishment is outlawed in twenty-three states and numerous countries around the world.

Manslaughter vs. Homicide

While some homicides are done on purpose, such as in self-defense or to prevent someone from committing a serious crime, manslaughter is a rare sort of homicide. But while manslaughter is still a crime that can result in punishment in a court of law, it is considered differently than other types of homicide, particularly those that fall under the category of murder.

Manslaughter can be classified into various categories.

  • Involuntary Manslaughter – Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person disregards another person’s life and that person dies as a result. This form of crime is carried out without malice or the aim to kill. Accidentally discharging a firearm or using and abusing narcotics are two examples. Involuntary manslaughter can result in a prison sentence of up to four years.
  • Voluntary Manslaughter – Person A intends to kill Person B but does not plan it ahead of time. This is known as voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is often a crime of passion, such as when a person returns home to find his or her spouse cheating and, in the heat of the moment, Person A murders Person B. Voluntary manslaughter can result in a prison sentence of more than a decade, depending on the circumstances.
  • Vehicular Manslaughter – Vehicular manslaughter is the most common type of manslaughter. This manslaughter occurs when a negligent driver causes an accident that kills a passenger in another vehicle. The punishments in these circumstances vary substantially based on the cause of the accident and Person A’s general driving record.

Meanwhile, it’s vital to remember that homicide, manslaughter, and even murder include a great deal of complexity. Some instances will result in no charges being filed, while others may result in lengthy prison sentences or possibly the death penalty.

Difference Between Homicide and Murders: Conclusion

The variances in the legal standards of each classification highlight the distinctions between homicide and murder. A murder charge must be proven in most states by following the state’s statutory standards.

In most cases, this entails malice or the desire to kill or seriously hurt that person.

The criminal justice system is difficult to understand. The legal system can also be harsh. If you or someone you care about has been charged with a crime, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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