What is the Difference Between Homicide and Murder?

what is the difference between homicide and murder

The words “murder” and “homicide” are frequently used interchangeably. However, there is a substantial discrepancy in their respective meanings. Any incident in which a person dies due to another’s conduct, intentionally or unintentionally. In contrast, murder involves the intentional killing of a person.

Examples of homicide include:

  • Murder committed while driving.
  • Murder committed in self-defense.
  • Murder committed while acting negligently. 

An example of murder includes killing someone with a preliminary plan and stabbing someone repeatedly to make him/her die. When it comes to what is the difference between homicide and murder, people often consider them as same, regardless of the minor difference between the two.

What is a Homicide?

The killing of someone intentionally or unintentionally is homicide. The only prerequisite for a crime to be classified as homicide is that it was committed voluntarily. A homicide may result from careless or negligent conduct or be accidental. Homicides come in a variety of forms. There are several categories in addition to those that most people are familiar with, such as murder.

What is Murder?

Murder is an intentional killing under common law (law derived from custom and court rulings rather than statutes), which was:

  • It is unlawful (that is, not supported by law), and
  • “With malice aforethought,” committed.

A killer does not necessarily need to have acted with malice aforethought to do murder. It exists if a defendant intends to kill someone without a valid reason or defense. Furthermore, malice aforethought isn’t limited to premeditated homicides in many states. It might also happen if the murderer:

  • Purposely causes severe physical harm that results in the victim’s demise, or
  • Exhibits careless contempt for life and acts in a way that kills the victim.

Types of Homicide

Justifiable Homicide

As a defense in criminal law, when there is sufficient evidence to refute the claimed unlawful act, justifiable homicide happens. 

In the united states, in cases when Person A was acting in self-defense and if someone died, justifiable murder is taken into account. 

The killing is also justified if it stops the victim from committing a violent offense like armed robbery, murder, or rape. In many states, a defendant asserting a right to self-defense must adhere to the duty to retreat, which mandates that the defendant first seek safety and only use self-defense when necessary.


When Person A ends the life of Person B so that Person B is no longer in agony or endures suffering because of a physical or mental condition, this is a homicide in the form of euthanasia. Laws governing euthanasia and individual attitudes about the contentious subject vary widely from one nation to the next. 

Euthanizing consenting, cognitively capable persons is still illegal, despite passive euthanasia being widely practiced (as when Person B loses cognitive function and Person A decides to “draw the plug”).

The death penalty is debatable even though it is permitted in many places. Twenty-three states and many countries have made the punishment illegal to date.

Type of Murder

First-Degree Murder

Even among those who kill with malice aforethought, the law deems some individuals to be more dangerous and morally culpable than others; this includes First-degree murder. First-degree murder penalties include up to 25 years to life in prison. 

Capital murder is a form of first-degree murder. First-degree murder with “special circumstances” that make the crime even more heinous is called capital murder. These crimes may carry a sentence of death or life in prison without the chance of parole.

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder generally refers to intentional killings that do not qualify as first-degree murder. It involves any killing committed without any premeditated motive. Second-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison to life.

The criteria for what circumstances constitute first-degree murder vary significantly from state to state, but typically the following criteria do so:

Killing Involving Deliberation and Premeditation

In other words, the murderer has already decided to kill and has had a chance to think about it. 

For example, a wife goes to the market, purchases a fatal quantity of rat poison, and slips it into her husband’s tea. It is a case of premeditation.

Killing Occurring During a Dangerous Felony

A common name for this crime is “felony murder.” Even if they are not the killers, someone might be found guilty of murder, and if death happens while committing a hazardous offense. Most states require that the initial felony’s foreseeable consequences include death. 

For example, Andrew sets a house on fire to commit arson, and firefighter Chris dies while attempting to put the flames off the blazing structure. Because a fatality occurred while executing a dangerous felony and it was foreseeable that the defendant’s actions would cause the death, Aaron would be found guilty of felony murder in this case. (Aaron might also be guilty of traditional murder if he did it with premeditation and malice.)

Most states do not automatically hold a person criminally responsible for the death of an accomplice if that death was not caused by them directly. For example, Bill and Janice break into a house; Janice is shot and killed by a police officer as they try to flee with the stolen goods. Even when a death occurred during a severe felony, Bill might not be guilty of first-degree murder. Use of explosive devices, such as a bomb.

For instance, the definition of first-degree murder in California includes several possible scenarios. According to the law, “All murder committed using a dangerous device or bomb, or by any other sort of intentional, purposeful, and premeditated killing, is murder in the first degree.”

Capital Punishment—Homicide Vs. Murder

Another illustration of homicide is capital punishment, also known as the death sentence. Executions are a legal kind of homicide as part of the state-mandated punishment for wrongdoing, and several offenses are considered deserving of the death penalty. 

For murder, many states have mandatory minimum punishments. Those guilty of first-degree murder and several face the death penalty, and many states and the federal government still have the death penalty. 

Second-degree murder defendants are frequently given years in prison rather than a life sentence and are eligible for parole.


After knowing what is the difference between homicide and murder, it’s crucial to remember that homicide and murder involve a wide range of complexity. Some circumstances result in no charges, while others may result in lengthy prison terms or even the previously mentioned capital punishment. If you have been arrested or charged with any of the above crimes, you should consult with a skilled criminal attorney early.


On what basis distinction between culpable homicide and murder is based?

The availability of direct evidence of murder determines whether it is culpable homicide or murder.

Does the death penalty deter crime?

There is no solid proof that a prison sentence or the death penalty is more effective at deterring crime.

What about the death penalty for terrorists?

Following violent attacks, governments frequently use the death penalty to show they are taking action to “defend” the country’s security.

What constitutes homicide?

A noncriminal act or the unlawful act of murder can be referred to as homicide because it is a generic phrase.

When does homicide become murder?

Killing someone purposefully or as a result of executing another significant crime is known as murder.