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Understanding the elements of a homicide charge

If police have linked your name to a homicide, you may be wondering what you can expect from law enforcement and the New Jersey criminal justice system. The answer is that it all depends on the many factors involved in the case. Homicides fall into several categories, and whether you will face charges is a decision that authorities cannot make until they have examined the elements of the event.

Homicide occurs when one person causes the death of another. While that may sound straightforward, it is usually more complex than that. A homicide is not necessarily a crime, but even if that is your case, you may still face civil repercussions.

Different types of homicide

Police have many questions to answer when they learn someone has died, especially if it was a violent death. Officers will need to quickly determine how the person died and the circumstances surrounding the death. If police decide someone else's actions caused the death of another person, the next questions include whether the act was intentional. Police divide the many elements of a homicide into several categories, including:

  • Justifiable homicide: If investigators determine you caused the death of someone to protect yourself or someone else from harm, they may consider the action reasonable.
  • Involuntary manslaughter: You had no intention of harming someone, but your negligent actions resulted in a person's death, such as a fatal DUI accident.
  • Voluntary manslaughter: You act without thinking, such as if someone provokes you, and your actions cause that person's death.
  • Second-degree murder: Similar to voluntary manslaughter, this homicide occurs without premeditation, but it may also involve actions that demonstrate no regard for the safety of others or the fact that you understood that your actions could be fatal.
  • First-degree murder: If you allegedly commit a homicide that you have thought of or planned beforehand, even if only for a short time, you may face this serious charge.

New Jersey does not have the death penalty for crimes of homicide, but you may face mandatory minimum sentences that can include decades behind bars. Additionally, even if the homicide was the result of an accident on your part, the family of the victim may seek retribution through the civil courts.

If you are under investigation for a homicide, you would be wise to seek legal advice and representation as soon as possible. Your attorney can evaluate your case and help you decide the most appropriate defense to build for the best possible outcome.

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