Do you think there's ever a time when a person might take the life of another human being, yet not be guilty of a crime? If you answered, "Yes," then you were correct. The word homicide simply means the taking of human life; however, many people in New Jersey and other states mistakenly believe that homicide equals murder. If prosecutors charge you with homicide, it doesn't necessarily mean they are charging you with murder.
Perhaps you were involved in a motor vehicle collision that resulted in another person's death. Depending on the circumstances leading up to that tragic event, you may or may not face criminal charges. Authorities may still list the death as homicide though. Understanding the various types of homicide and what types of defenses may be available if you face homicide charges may help you protect your rights and stay out of jail or prison.
Get the facts
Sometimes, taking another person's life is justified under the law. The following information clarifies the difference between murder and other forms of homicide:
- If you're walking along a sidewalk and someone jumps out from a side street or alley and attempts to mug you, you have the right to defend yourself. In many past situations, such defense has led to the death of the would-be mugger. However, self-defense is a justified form of killing even though it falls under the definition of homicide.
- Regarding motor vehicle accidents, there are some situations where the homicide would qualify as manslaughter, which is an illegal form of killing. For instance, if you were intoxicated behind the wheel of a car and subsequently caused a collision that resulted in someone's death, you may face manslaughter charges.
- Manslaughter is a lesser charge than murder; in the case previously described, it may not have been the intent of an intoxicated motorist to kill someone; however, in light of the fact that someone did die in a DUI collision, prosecutors could file manslaughter charges against the driver.
- What happens if you were defending another person's life when you fought off an attacker? If the perpetrator of a crime dies at your hand while you are defending another person's life, the court may consider it a justifiable homicide, similar to self-defense.
Prosecutors must prove your guilt regarding homicide beyond a reasonable doubt. The law guarantees you the right to present as strong a defense as possible to refute the charges.
Others here in New Jersey have successfully done so by asking experienced defense attorneys to fight against such charges on their behalves in court.