Criminal homicide is further broken down into three different categories: murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and manslaughter. The difference between lawful and unlawful homicide is that the person who committed the murder did so with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought means that the defendant charged with the murder displayed reckless disregard for human life and decided to kill or inflict deadly harm before committing the act that took the victim’s life.
Murder in the first degree (also known as first degree murder) is the killing of another person that is deliberate and premeditated. In order for the killing to be deliberate, the defendant must have willfully performed the action that killed the victim knowing that such an action would result in death or extreme bodily harm. Premeditation is the willful choice made after careful thought to perform the action that resulted in the victim’s death. A premeditated decision to murder does not necessarily require a long period of consideration; a calculated decision to murder can often be reached in a very short amount of time. If the jury finds that the defendant made a deliberate and premeditated choice to kill, then the defendant is found guilty of first degree murder.
Individuals who face charges for manslaughter may face charges of wrongful death if the families of their victims decide to pursue additional legal action. Unlike manslaughter, the end result of wrongful death may be financial compensation.
Since manslaughter and wrongful death are two separate charges that are tried in two different courts, an individual who is found guilty of one of these charges may not necessarily be found guilty of the other charge.
Accidents that may be considered acts of manslaughter may include any act that an individual commits that unintentionally leads to the death of another person. This means that individuals who cause fatal car accidents, for instance, may be charged and convicted with manslaughter.
These same individuals may be found to have committed a wrongful death if the plaintiff in these cases, which is usually the family of the deceased individual, can prove that the individual’s negligence caused the death to occur.
Criminal homicide is always a tragedy, and perhaps the offense that the legal system takes most seriously and punishes with the most severity. If you have been charged with criminal homicide, you are facing very grave consequences, but your situation is not without hope. Skillful defense attorneys can often be the difference between receiving the maximum penalty or a lesser sentence. An experienced advocate is your greatest aid in defending your rights and freedoms.