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Tennessee General Law Blog

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Not every homicide, or killing of a human being, is a crime

Being accused of being involved in a homicide can understandably be unnerving. However, a common misconception is that every homicide is a crime.

A homicide is essentially the killing of a human being. Many homicides, including manslaughter and murder, do violate laws. However, other homicides, such as killing someone in justifiable self-defense, are not a criminal offenses. Understanding the difference among manslaughter, murder and a legal homicide is critical if police have linked you to any one of these types of incidents in Tennessee.


Murder in the first degree is more serious than any other type of criminal homicide. Generally, murder in the first degree is both premeditated and intentional. Premeditation refers to coming up with either a short- or a long-term plan to kill someone. However, if you reportedly plan to kill someone but accidentally end up killing another individual instead, you will still face a charge of murder in the first degree.

Meanwhile, if authorities assert that you intended to kill someone but that no premeditation was involved, they may charge you with murder in the second degree instead. This kind of crime occurs in the heat of passion.


Manslaughter refers to illegally killing someone in a manner that falls short of an intended killing. Involuntary slaughter is the lowest type of manslaughter, where you did not mean to kill somebody but still took the victim’s life through reckless or criminally negligent behavior. An example of this is if you choose to drive while intoxicated and end up killing a pedestrian.

Voluntary manslaughter generally means you did not intend to kill someone, so premeditation was lacking. It is similar to murder in the second degree but is less serious, given the circumstances surrounding the killing.

Legal homicide

A justified homicide, or a legal homicide, is any killing that falls outside of the bounds of manslaughter or murder. For instance, maybe you had to kill someone to defend yourself or someone else during an incident such as a murder, rape or armed robbery.

No matter the criminal charge you face in connection with a homicide, you have the right to fight the charge vigorously. A qualified attorney will strive for the most personally favorable outcome for you considering the facts of your criminal case.

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