Every state in the United States has different types of homicide classifications. However, these classifications generally fall into three general categories. Those general categories are:
Regardless of the circumstances or the outcome of the charges, a homicide involves the taking of a human life and a homicide attorney should be contacted to guide you through the legal process.
Murder is typically broken down further into two categories:
Second Degree Murder
First-Degree Murder: First-degree murder, most serious of all homicide charges, is reserved for situations where the person accused of the homicide planned the killing and intended for the victim to die because of his or her actions. Famous cases involving first-degree murder include the Charles Manson, O.J. Simpson, and Scott Petersen cases out of California. These cases are usually the most heinous crimes and as such, the most severe punishments are usually reserved for these convictions. In many states, those convicted of first-degree murder will face the death penalty or life in prison.
Second-Degree Murder: Second-degree murder is a charge reserved for cases where it cannot be proved that the killer planned the killing but where the killer still intended that the victim die because of her or her actions. A recent famous case involving a second-degree murder charge is the Phil Spector case out of California. Situations where second-degree murder charges arise are sometimes described as "crimes of passion" or instances where the killing occurred in the "heat of passion." In some states, individuals convicted of this crime can face life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, depending on the state’s laws and the situation’s circumstances.
The charge of manslaughter is reserved for instances where the accused did not plan the crime nor did he or she intend for the victim to die because of his or her actions. Manslaughter charges usually arise out of accidental circumstances where a person died because of the event. A manslaughter case in recent history is that of Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray. Sentences for those convicted of manslaughter vary widely depending on state laws and the circumstances of the event in question.
Justifiable homicide is reserved for situations where an individual killed another in self-defense or similar circumstances. This really is not a legal charge, but rather a classification for which authorities can register an event where an individual died but no crime was committed. The case of Ann and Jim Tatum out of Colorado is an example of a well-known justifiable homicide situation. In these situations, no criminal charges are filed.