New York residents might benefit from learning about the different classifications of homicide. In certain cases, homicide may be considered a legal act. Otherwise, these actions may be treated as murder by manslaughter. Killing in defense of another person or as a means of self-defense may be described as a justified homicide. Whether or not the act is justified depends on whether state laws permit lethal force for acts of self-defense.

Credible threats, such as murder, rape or armed robbery, typically permit homicide as a justifiable end to self-defense. Homicides that are illegal and not justified but lack the qualifications of murder are referred to as manslaughter. The least severe classification is involuntary manslaughter, meaning the illegal homicide was unintended but still involved behavior considered to be criminally reckless or negligent. Killing someone from drunk driving might qualify for involuntary manslaughter charges.

Voluntary manslaughter may be described as killing without intent or premeditation. The specifics of the crime and the residing state tend to dictate how many types of homicide charges are brought to trial against the accused. A first-degree murder charge is the most serious homicide offense. This type of homicide is often described as both premeditated and intentional. In order to qualify as first-degree murder, the intent does not need to target the actual victim, and the premeditation may be short-term or long-term.

People who are accused of committing violent crimes typically benefit from working with a criminal defense lawyer. Legal counsel may be able to review the charges and begin developing a viable defense for the accused. Lawyers often focus on gathering a preponderance of evidence that may present a significant challenge to the merits or credibility of the prosecution’s assertions.

Source: FindLaw, ‘Homicide Definition,” accessed on Jan. 9, 2015