While the terms “murder,” “homicide” and “manslaughter” are often used interchangeably in Georgia, each term has a distinct legal definition. Homicide is the basic act of killing another person. They are typically unlawful but can be justified in court in cases of self-defense, war combat or a police officer killing a suspect.
Conversely, murder is always unlawful and often involves premeditation. First-degree murders are typically violent crimes that were planned. They might involve guns, explosives and other instruments of murder. Premeditation doesn’t necessarily mean months of planning. A split-second decision to kill someone may be considered premeditation.
Second-degree murder are killings that weren’t premeditated. Manslaughter is a similar charge to second-degree murder, although it typically carries lighter punishments. Voluntary manslaughter is typically a spur-of-the-moment decision that occurs during a moment of heightened emotion, like in the middle of a fight. Since the killer was not in control of his or her emotions at the time, the act is not considered to be premeditated murder.
Involuntary manslaughter involves unintentionally killing someone through reckless behavior. For example, killing someone while drunk driving could result in a charge of involuntary manslaughter. The individual didn’t intend to kill anyone, but he or she still put other people’s lives in danger with his or her reckless behavior.
How to proceed after being hit with criminal charges
If an individual has received criminal charges, he or she may find it beneficial to speak with an attorney. Criminal charges can result from violent crimes, drug offenses, burglary, murder, parole violations, DUIs, arson, property damage and white-collar crime. Working with an attorney, a person may be able to negotiate for lesser penalties, like reduced fines and shorter periods of jail time. Additionally, an attorney may defend his or her client and challenge the prosecution in the case of false accusations.