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When is a Louisiana homicide not a crime?

Louisiana laws differentiate between killings that are justifiable and those that are serious crimes. Homicide is one person's death caused by someone else. Charges and punishments for criminal homicides vary depending upon several factors, not the least of which is the intent of the alleged offender.

It is not a crime, under many situations, to kill someone else in self-defense or in the defense of another person. Justified homicide in Louisiana includes a stand-your-ground provision. A person does not have to retreat – try to avoid a conflict -- before using deadly force, to prevent death or great bodily harm.

In Louisiana, the law states unlawful force may be met with lawful force. For instance, homicide is not justifiable if the person who does the killing is involved in an illegal drug transaction. There is a sufficient reason for killing when a robber or burglar attempts to or enters a home, vehicle or business.

Louisiana categorizes criminal homicide as manslaughter or murder. Murder is committed with a plan and a purpose. Manslaughter involves voluntary or involuntary killing without intent.

Voluntary manslaughter can include crimes of "passion" committed during a temporary loss of reason, while involuntary manslaughter is associated with accidental killings due to defendant negligence or recklessness, like a DUI fatality.

Murder charges allege a defendant intended to kill, not necessarily with a focus on killing a specific person. The events surrounding an intentional homicide dictate whether a defendant faces first- or second-degree murder charges. For example, in our state, the killing of a police officer, a child under 12 or a person over 65 is considered a first-degree murder offense.

How and why a killing takes place determines whether a homicide is justified or criminal. Criminal defense attorneys understand punishments that accompany homicide convictions can be severe. In every case, evidence is sought to prove a killing was justified or to mitigate circumstances.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Homicide Definition" accessed Jan. 29, 2015

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