When most people hear of a homicide, they automatically think of a criminal act. That isn't always the case. Some homicides aren't criminal acts at all. In the most general sense, a homicide is simply the killing of a human.
There are several different types of homicides. The type of homicide that occurs is based on the circumstances surrounding the killing. Murder, manslaughter and justifiable homicide are some of the most common types of homicide that can occur.
In most cases, a murder is intentional. There can be premeditation present in some cases, such as first-degree murder. Other murder charges, such as second-degree murder, won't have premeditation. These would be intentional killings, such as those that occurred in the heat of passion. Murder is the most serious form of homicide from a criminal justice standpoint.
Manslaughter is a criminal homicide that isn't up the requirements of murder. Manslaughter can be voluntary or involuntary. Of the two, voluntary is seen as the more serious crime because the person who initiated the killing did so willingly but without thinking about it or having the intention of killing the person. Involuntary manslaughter means that the person acted recklessly or negligently in a manner that caused the death of another person.
Justifiable homicide is a term used to indicate a homicide that wasn't illegal. For example, a homicide that is done in self defense might be considered justifiable.
Knowing how the definitions of homicides vary in Pennsylvania can help people who are facing these charges. In some cases, proving that the case doesn't meet the requirements for the specified criminal charge can be a component of the defense.
Source: FindLaw, "Homicide Definition," accessed Oct. 21, 2016