What is the legal definition of homicide?

When people see the word homicide, they often equate it with the word murder. This becomes important in news reports because a homicide will be declared and many reading the report will think that this automatically means a crime has been committed. Despite this widespread belief, that’s not actually true.

Technically speaking, any time that a human being is killed, it is a homicide. It is simply the act of taking the life. That doesn’t mean it’s illegal. For example, if someone breaks into a house with a knife and the homeowner shoots him or her in self-defense, perhaps protecting his or her family, it may be justified. This is still a homicide, but it is not a crime.

A homicide becomes a crime when it breaks the law, turning it into a murder case or a manslaughter case.

While there are a few distinctions, the main difference between murder and manslaughter is simply intent. For instance, if someone plans out how he or she is going to kill someone else and then acts on that plan, it is murder because the person deliberately took the life with the full knowledge of what was happening.

If, however, he or she simply did something by accident to take the life, it may only be manslaughter. The accident could have been caused by negligence, such as driving recklessly or not showing proper care while using a firearm. Since there was no intent to kill, manslaughter charges are often used.

Are you facing charges in Baltimore or have you been implicated in a homicide? If so, it’s crucial to know the real definition of your charges and what legal action you need to take.

Source: FindLaw.com, “Homicide Definition,” accessed May. 08, 2015