Differences Between Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter

What are the differences between Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter? Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter are three different legal terms that tend to be difficult for a lot of students to understand. The reason is because they all have to do with the killing of a person by another person. However, the act and intention of the killing is different in each case. This article there seeks to clearly differentiate between Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter in the way that it will be easy for a common law student to understand.

In other to achieve the above, we will comprehensively explain the meaning of Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter in law. It is therefore encouraged that you read this work carefully so that you will be able to learn from it.

Meaning and Differences between Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter
Meaning and Differences between Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter

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Meaning of Homicide

Homicide refers to the killing of one human being by another. It refers to both legal and illegal killings. When we hear the term homicide, we think of murder and manslaughter. But these terms just refer to two types of homicide. Homicide refers to lawful killings (killing in self-defense, for example), intentional killing (murder), state sanctioned killing during war, euthanasia, and negligent or reckless killing (manslaughter). It also stretches out to include what happens when the state kills somebody. Homicide is an umbrella term that houses all kinds of killings.

Homicide can be willful, deliberate, and premeditated, or homicide committed in the commission, or attempted commission of a statutorily enumerated felony, usually of a violent nature. It is regarded as the most extreme behavior of violence and can be considered lawful when justified by an affirmative defense, like insanity or self-defense.

Statistically, more than 400,000 people die from homicide each year. In Some countries, it is one of the leading causes of death and one of the biggest factors of high mortality rate. Most victims of homicide are younger than 50. In many countries, there has been a long-term decline in homicide rate. However, the killing of oneself is a suicide, not a homicide.

All legal systems make distinctions between the various categories of murder, and they take into account the intent of the accused, circumstances surrounding the actions of the accused (whether or not he was provoked), accident, and the dangerousness of the act of the accused.

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Meaning of Murder

Murder, on the other hand, is the unlawful killing of another human being without justification or valid excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought. In criminal law, it refers to the unjustified killing of one person by another, and is usually distinguished from manslaughter by the element of malice aforethought. Malice aforethought exists if a defendant intends to kill another person or to cause grievous bodily harm without legal justification or excuse and should not be mistaken for premeditation.

For a killing to be termed as murder, it has to be intentional, unlawful [not legally justified], and committed with malice aforethought. However, malice aforethought isn’t restricted to intentional killings alone. It can also exist if the killer unintentionally inflicts serious bodily harm or torture that causes the victims death; or behaves in a manner that portrays extreme and reckless disregard for human life and results in the victim’s death, or has the intent to commit a dangerous felony which accidentally results in the death of another.

Different states have different laws on murder, but most states recognize the common degrees of murder. The degrees of murder include first degree murder (premeditated murder) , second degree murder [unpremeditated murder where the defendant intended to inflict grievous bodily harm, felony murder (death caused during the commission of a dangerous felony) and murder under aggravating circumstances.

Difference Between manslaughter and murder in criminal law
Difference Between manslaughter and murder in criminal law

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Meaning of Manslaughter

Manslaughter is the unlawful and unintended killing of a person without malice aforethought and is treated as a much less severe crime than murder. Manslaughter is usually categorized into voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person kills another person without any premeditation. For example, crimes of passion. Voluntary manslaughter involves the intent to kill or cause bodily harm to the victim, but it wasn’t premeditated. It is the killing of somebody under extreme provocation or while under the heat of passion.

For instance, a woman is grinding on a stone and a man stands behind her and makes crude comments about her then proceeds to smack her bum. Angrily, she swings the grinder at him and it hits his head and crushes his skull, killing him. This is voluntary manslaughter. In some states, the jail term for voluntary manslaughter is 11 years.

Involuntary manslaughter involves the killing of a person by acts of recklessness or negligence resulting in the death of the person.

For example, Joy and Andy had an argument by the stairs of a hotel. Joy gave Andy a shove and she fell down the stairs, hitting her head multiple times and died. In some states, the jail term for involuntary manslaughter is 4 years.

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Differences between Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter

Meaning and Differences Between murder and manslaughter in law
Meaning and Differences Between murder and manslaughter in law

1. Homicide is the umbrella term for all kinds of killing. The implication being that murder and manslaughter are under it.

2. Murder is the intentional killing of a person while manslaughter refers to other killings that cannot be categorized as murder.

3. Murder is divided into first, second and third degree murder, while manslaughter is categorized into voluntary and involuntary murder.

4. Murder in most cases leads to a verdict of death. Death usually by hanging, electric chair, firing squad, or injections (this doesn’t apply to countries that have removed death as a punishment), while manslaughter usually results to life imprisonment.

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Hope this article was helpful in differentiating between Homicide, Murder and Manslaughter? If you have any comments or contribution on this subject kindly share it at the comment section.