The terms “murder” and “homicide” are often confused for one another because many people do not recognize that there is an important and distinct difference between the two terms. However, if you are facing charges of either one of these crimes, it’s crucial to know the difference.
The definition for homicide can be boiled down pretty simply: taking the life of another individual. This can be in nearly any circumstances. This is where the important difference between the two lies: homicides can be justifiable, murder never can be.
For example, a killing performed in proven self-defense is considered justifiable by law, and while it is still recorded on the official record as a “justifiable homicide,” no charges are warranted and no penalties are levied. Similar actions are performed when a peace officer is forced to shoot a suspect who is posing an immediate threat to themselves or those around them.
Unlike homicide, murder is never justifiable and is always considered a particularly heinous felony with extreme penalties. In Texas, there are four different classes of murder.
- Capital Murder: Capital murder charges are extreme cases, primarily based on the status of the victim. If the accused kills a fireman or police officer who is on acting duty, kills for hire, or kills more than one person in the same criminal transaction, then they will be charged with capital murder. Additionally, murder committed while committing another felony, including burglary, robbery, or sexual assault, is automatically upgraded to capital murder.
- Murder: This encompasses knowingly causing the death of another individual, intending to cause injury which then results in that individual losing their life, and attempting to commit a felony and committing an act that unintentionally results in the death of an individual.
- Manslaughter: When the reckless actions of an individual cause the death of another. In order for this to be charged, the perpetrator must have consciously recognized the substantial risk and have chosen to ignore it.
- Criminally-Negligent Homicide: This is charged when an individual should have recognized the negligence of their actions but failed to do so, resulting in the death of an individual. This is different from manslaughter in that manslaughter perpetrators recognized the risk of their actions while criminally-negligent homicide perpetrators did not when they should have.