Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter: What Is the Difference?

 Posted on November 09,2018 in Criminal Law

Arlington Heights murder defense attorneyDuring normal conversation, words that have more than one meaning are often used interchangeably, such as robbery, theft, and burglary. In general, these words mean the same thing, but in a court of law, they all have very different meanings. The same goes for homicide, murder, and manslaughter - they tend to have a similar meaning in everyday life, but they all have different definitions and carry very different sentencing terms when used in a legal setting. A person who is charged with first-degree murder will be facing much more serious consequences than a person who is charged with involuntary manslaughter.


When you are talking about homicide in a law setting, it simply just means the act of one person killing another person, which may or may not be illegal, depending on the circumstances. For example, if you use deadly force against someone because they attempted to commit a forcible felony (like robbing your home or committing an assault), your actions may not technically be illegal because of Illinois laws regarding justifiable use of force.


Murder is the term that is used when an unjustified killing is committed. It is broken down into degrees:

First-degree murder occurs when a person kills another person and intended to do so, or they knew that their act had a high probability of causing death or great bodily harm. Various factors can change the sentencing terms for first-degree murder, but those who are convicted can face a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison up to life imprisonment. In Illinois, those convicted of first-degree murder are required to serve all of their sentence.

Second-degree murder is a bit more complicated. It contains all of the elements of first-degree murder, but instead of intending to kill the person, the offender either acted on a “sudden and intense passion” after being provoked by the victim, or the offender thought their actions were justified when they were actually not reasonable. Second-degree murder is a Class 1 felony and carries a sentence of four to 20 years in prison. Those who are sentenced for second-degree murder can typically expect to serve about half of their time.


If a person kills another person unintentionally, then they have committed manslaughter. Reckless homicide is also grouped with manslaughter charges, but in Illinois, reckless homicide is only charged if a person unintentionally killed someone while operating a motor vehicle. Both involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide charges are Class 3 felonies, but reckless homicide charges can be increased to Class 2 felonies if certain circumstances exist. Typical involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide charges carry a sentence of two to five years in prison.

You Need the Help of a Rolling Meadows Violent Crimes Defense Attorney

Your penalties will greatly depend on the specific crime you were charged with, which is why it is important to understand the difference between these terms. If you have been accused of a violent crime such as murder or manslaughter, you should speak to an experienced and aggressive Arlington Heights criminal defense lawyer right away. Scott F. Anderson, Attorney at Law is here to help you figure out your best course of action and work with you to avoid any sort of conviction at all costs. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 847-253-3400.


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