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Murders vs Homicide – Here Are Main Differences & Definition

In general, there are two ways to describe one person killing another: murder and homicide. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, when it comes to the law, they are very different.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is Murder?

Legally speaking, murder refers to the unlawful killing of a person without justification or valid excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought, which is the intention to kill. This state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide.

What is Homicide?

Homicide is a general term that means the killing of one human being by another. The term may refer to a non-criminal act, in addition to the criminal act of murder. Certain homicides are considered justifiable in the eyes of the law, such as the killing of a person to prevent the commission of a serious felony or during wartime by a soldier. Other homicides are said to be excusable, such as when a person kills in self-defense or to defend one's family.

What are the 3 Degrees of Homicide?

In the Criminal Code, the act of homicide is considered either culpable or non-culpable. A non-culpable homicide is not an offense and includes justified uses of force by police or military, as well as self-defense by civilians. Culpable homicide has 3 categories: murder, manslaughter, or infanticide.

Culpable homicide is committed when a person causes the death of a human being by an unlawful act, criminal negligence, or by causing that person through threats of violence, fear of violence, or deception to do something that causes their death.

What's the Difference Between Murder and Culpable Homicide?

The difference between murder and culpable homicide comes down to a person's Mens Rea, or "guilty intention." If a person intentionally kills another person, it is classified as murder, whereas if a person never planned to kill someone or didn't know they were going to, that is culpable homicide.

Can I Be Charged With Murder for Defending Myself?

A person can be legally justified in using physical or deadly force when protecting themselves from what they believe to be unlawful physical force. An individual may legally use deadly force if they believe the threatening person is committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, or other crime against a person or their home. However, the “duty to retreat” law mandates that a person take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of sustaining harm before acting in self-defense with deadly force.

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