Homicide Vs. Murder in Criminal Law; Similarities and Differences

Homicide and murder in criminal law are often used interchangeably. However, If you have been accused of causing another person’s death, knowing the difference between homicide and murder is necessary to be aware of potential penalties you may likely face when convicted.

In general, homicide and murder in criminal law are some ways to describe a person’s killing. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, they are very different when it comes to the law. Homicide and murder are legal charges with varying severities and punishments under the law. 

Being accused of causing another person’s death can come with emotional damge, fear, and mental stress. It’s necessary to understand the difference between homicide and murder before going foward. 

What is Homicide?

Homicide is killing one person by another, which could be legal or illegal. Homicide result from negligence, accident, or recklessness of one person, which in turn causes the death of another. Sometimes, homicide occurs without the intention of the offender to kill the victim. 

For example, a soldier may kill an enemy in battle or a killing in self-defense; these are not a crime but legal homicides. In certain situations, killing another person does not constitute a crime.

Likewise, homicide crimes may be classified into several offenses of varying degrees based on the defendant’s intentions, motives, and method of homicide. It’s also vital to understand that homicide as a crime can result from someone’s action resulting in another’s death.

What is Murder in Criminal Law?

A murder occurs when a person intentionally takes another person’s life unlawfully with malice aforethought. The degree of murder suggests its severity both in the charge and its subsequent punishment. For example, murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and aggravated murder are all Class A-1 felonies punishable by 15 to 40 years or life in prison without parole.

Murder is a homicide charge involving the illegal killing of a person and often comes with intent. 

Similarities Between Homicide and Murder in Criminal Law

Homicide and murder are similar because both involve killing a person by another. When a death occurs due to someone else’s behavior, it is categorized as either homicide or murder. Murder and homicide are often categorized by degrees, which reflect the perpetrator’s intent and the crime’s extent.

Differences Between Homicide and Murder In Criminal Law

There are some differences between Homicide and Murder, which are vital for legal proceedings. Numerous variations and degrees of homicide exist, including those that are justifiable and criminally negligent. Murder is a type of homicide involving malicious intent and prior thought. Therefore, the penalty for homicide can be generally less severe than murder.

The intent is often identified in the actions of a person. If, for example, an individual deliberately fires a gun into a crowd of people, a court may see this as specific intent to kill anyone the bullets hit. When a person’s gun goes off while cleaning it and another individual is killed, the specific intent to kill is usually not involved. Both scenarios are examples of criminal homicide, but only the former is considered murder. All murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders.

Scroll to Top