We hear the terms “murder” and “homicide” used interchangeably all time, whether it’s on the news, in a TV show, or even just in conversations with other people. While the two crimes are related (both involve taking the life of another), there is a distinct and important difference between the two that makes a tremendous difference in the consequences you could be facing.
In short, “homicide” is the legal term for taking the life of another, under any circumstances, including killings that occur in self-defense. When a police officer takes the life of a suspect in the midst of a gunfight, or when a homeowner shoots an intruder who is threatening their life, the authorities record these incidents as “justifiable homicide.” While there are no penalties should this be proven to be the case, there is still a legal record of it.
The term “murder” means “criminal homicide.” In other words, murder occurs when one person takes the life of another in unjustifiable circumstances. When you are charged with murder, you will be subject to a criminal trial, and the penalties you face could be extremely severe.
In California, there are three types of murder:
- First-degree murder involves pre-meditated intent. Oftentimes these murders involve cruelty and planning (and are frequently the ones seen on TV shows). California also charges killings that occur as a result of another crime to be first-degree murders as well.
- Second-degree murders also have intent, but lack pre-meditation. You may not have intended to kill the other person when first meeting up with them, but killing them in a catastrophic loss of emotional control fits into this crime.
- Third-degree murder is also known as “manslaughter” and occurs when negligence of an act of harm results in the death of another person. Reckless driving actions that kill a pedestrian on the side of the road are considered manslaughter, or third-degree murder charges.
In each of these cases, you could be facing consequences that will have a significant impact on you for the rest of your life. Retaining the legal counsel of a Riverside criminal defense attorney with experience handling violent crimes will give you the best chance of an optimal result. At the Law Offices of Grech & Packer, we have more than 39 years of criminal defense experience, and have gone to trial more than 100 times to defend our clients against a wide range of charges, including those facing the death penalty.