What You Must Know About Homicide Law
The etymology of the word, "homicide," goes back to the Latin words homo, meaning man, and caedere, meaning to kill. Homicide is the technical term for the killing of one human being by another. The most common incidents of homicides are murders. Homicide, however, covers a broad range of instances in which one human being kills another human being. Though murder is always illegal and a felony, homicides are not always illegal.
Homicide is recognized as a crime in many legal systems both modern and historic, though each society has different means of judging when a killing has become a criminal offense. Most jurisdictions, however, consider a killing to be criminal when it is the result of a willful attempt by one individual to deprive another individual of his or her life.
The law recognizes several circumstances in which a homicide may not be an illegal act. These incidents of homicide are considered justifiable homicides. The most commonly recognized circumstance in which a homicide is not illegal is self-defense. Self-defense is a justifiable homicide committed either to protect the life of one's self or to prevent a person from committing a violent felony against another person.
When homicides occur because of a law enforcement official acting to enforce the law, a thorough investigation of the killing may cause the killing to be considered as a homicide as a result of justifiable deadly force.
An unlawful homicide which is not accompanied by intent or malice may be prosecuted as a lower charge known as manslaughter. Common prosecutions of manslaughter include negligent homicides and vehicular homicide.
A homicide which occurs within a war and which does not violate the widely-accepted norms of acceptable methods employed within a field of combat is not considered a criminal homicide. A homicide which violates the norms established in the laws of war may be considered murder under international law.
Homicides require a human victim. It is impossible for a homicide to be committed against a non-human animal or organism, or a corporation.
Homicides can cover a broad range of crimes. A homicide may be named by its victim or by its perpetrator, or may be named for the relationships between the two. Homicides named in these manners are: suicide, the homicide of the self, fratricide, when the killer's brother is the victim, filicide, when a parent kills his or her son or daughter, sororicide, a killing of a sister, matricides, where the killer murders his or her mother, patricide, a homicide targeting the father, parricides, which are homicides in which both matricide and patricide occur, and infanticide, which is when the killer commits homicide targeting his or her own infants. These homicides all derive their names from Latin words describing the relationship between the killer and victim.
Homicides named for the circumstances in which they occur include assassinations, felony murders, lynchings, murders by torture, mass murder, serial killings, honor killings, and contract killings.
Assisted suicide is another kind of homicide, which involves a physician providing a terminally ill patient with the medication required to end his or her own life. Depending upon the jurisdiction, these may or may not be considered homicides.