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What is the difference between homicide and murder?

If you are familiar with law enforcement or criminal activity, you have likely heard the term "homicide" at some point. Some people have only a minimal understanding of homicide, with little more than the knowledge that it involves the killing of other people. Of course, nearly everyone is familiar with murder, which also involves the killing of another person. So you may wonder if the two are different ways of saying the same thing, or if they are two different things entirely.

Homicide and murder have similar, yet distinct, legal definitions. Specifically, all murders are homicides, but not all homicides are murders. Murder refers to an instance in which a person knowingly and willfully kills another human being, either with premeditated intent or extreme passion in the moment. Homicide is a much broader term, referring to any instance in which a life was taken due to criminally negligent or reckless behavior.

Clearly, this is a very important distinction and the difference between being charged with a murder or another kind of homicide could be the difference between the death penalty and a few years in prison under Louisiana law. This difference can be very important if you find yourself in a situation in which you are unable to prove your innocence. Even if you cannot prove that you are innocent of a homicide, you may be able to prove that it was done in self-defense, or that it was not premeditated. 

The spectrum of criminal homicide has multiple different points; it is not simply the difference between murder and not murder. Depending on the circumstances, you could be dealing with completely different criminal charges, and legal aid can help you establish the particulars of your case so that you are not tried or punished for a crime you did not commit. 

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