Outside of the legal profession, the charges of homicide, murder, and manslaughter are all used in almost the same manner when describing this type of crime. Legally though, they have quite different meanings and vary substantially in the way they are defended, handled by the Seattle court system, and in the punishments that you can incur if convicted. A Seattle homicide law firm can help.
All, of course, involve the death of a person (or persons), and the following is a brief synopsis of their legal differences:
Homicide: Homicide is a term that covers the broadest meaning of the three charges and simply covers the killing of another individual. This term is usually broken down legally into three types of homicides; justifiable homicide, excusable homicide, and criminal homicide.
Some examples are:
- Justifiable homicide is committed if a soldier kills an enemy during a war, or an official legally executing a criminal via a death penalty charge. If your home is invaded, and you killed the intruder, you could be charged with justifiable homicide.
- Excusable homicide usually refers to unavoidable accidents of many types. If a person is killed by another due to an accident, and (very importantly) there is no negligence or any criminal activity involved, the homicide may be considered excusable. If you have an unavoidable auto accident, and another is killed and you were not intoxicated, driving negligently (etc.), then this might carry an excusable homicide charge.
- It is especially important to point out that neither justifiable nor excusable homicide is criminal. The 3rd category, criminal homicide, is legally a criminal charge. (Murder would fall under the umbrella of criminal homicide.)
Manslaughter: Manslaughter also is charged in accident cases, but there is a distinct difference between manslaughter and excusable homicide. In a manslaughter case, the individual charged with the death of another acted in a negligent, reckless, or criminal manner. The difference being that the negligent or criminal behavior resulted in death. Drunk driving is one of the most common examples demanding this charge.
- The intention of the perpetrator to kill the other person was not there, but their direct actions caused the death. The lack of murderous intent is legally the key to this difference.
Murder: The charge of murder is considerably more serious than any of the previous charges discussed. In a murder charge, the perpetrator intended to kill the other individual. The way the Seattle courts consider a murder charge may differ from the other charges and will carry more severe penalties.
- Legally, any person who has the intent to kill another and carries that out that intent is guilty of murder. This is true whether the murder was premeditated or not.
If you are charged with homicide, manslaughter, or murder, you are in serious legal trouble. Being accused of these types of crimes will cause extreme amounts of stress and could result in years or decades of jail time. You must get the advice or retain a Seattle criminal justice attorney as soon as possible. Your criminal defense attorney will professionally review your case and help you navigate these rocky waters to provide you with the best defense possible.
How Do the Penalties Differ for Manslaughter, Homicide, and Murder in Seattle?
Due to the differences discussed above, the penalties for manslaughter, homicide, and murder differ vastly in jail time, parole, bail, and many other facets of your possible sentence. Conceivably, the best answer to this question is to fully discuss the details of your case with your Seattle criminal defense attorney. He or she will provide you with any and all the options you may have.
As a guideline though, the following are some examples of what some penalties may be:
- Manslaughter has a base sentence (for involuntary manslaughter), under federal sentencing guidelines, of a 10–16-month prison sentence. This sentence increases greatly, though, if the crime included an act of reckless conduct, such as drunk driving.
- Manslaughter is rated by degree (as are most of these crimes). Manslaughter in the 1st degree is a class A felony, punishable by a maximum of life in prison and/or a maximum fine of $50,000. Manslaughter in the 2nd degree is a class B felony, punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $20,000.
These are only examples and are dependent on the severity of your crime, previous convictions, and if you were involved in some reckless or criminal activity at the time of the incident. It proves, however, that manslaughter is extremely serious and could have life-altering consequences.
- Regarding homicide, let’s use negligent homicide as an example. Punishment ranges from six months to 10 years for a negligent homicide conviction. Because criminal negligence is like general negligence, a defendant also risks facing an independent civil lawsuit for the unlawful killing of another individual.
- Murder in the 1st degree is a class A felony under Washington law and brings a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. 1st degree murder is most often defined as an intentional killing done with premeditation.
What Legal Defenses Might My Criminal Justice Attorney Use for My Case?
By consulting with your Seattle criminal justice attorney as soon as possible, he or she will be able to provide the best legal strategies to challenge the charges made against you.
Such legal strategies might be:
- the defendant was incorrectly identified as the perpetrator
- the defendant was somewhere else at the time of the death, thus providing an alibi
- the police arrested the defendant as a result of an unlawful search or seizure
All these crimes may have different legal definitions, but they all can have dire consequences on you and your family’s future. Don’t face these charges alone, but use the solid, professional guidance of a criminal defense attorney to best serve you with resolving these complex issues.