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Thoughts on Criminal Defense in North Carolina

What Is The Difference Between Murder, Homicide And Manslaughter?


Homicide is simply the unlawful killing of a human being, and it covers both murder and manslaughter. This includes intentional killing, and under certain circumstances, unintentional killing. Generally speaking, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice. Sometimes that includes premeditation and deliberation, sometimes it does not. Under certain circumstances, an act of gross negligence can be considered murder.

There are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. The former is usually a lesser included offense to some murder charges where there may be some justification for force. The latter is usually an unintentional killing with negligence or gross negligence.

Are There Different Degrees Of Charges That Fall Under Homicide?

There are two degrees of murder: first and second. First degree murder involves premeditation and deliberation, whereas second degree murder does not. The exception is that if a person is killed during a burglary or robbery, then the person who committed the killing is guilty of first degree murder- even if they didn’t premeditate or deliberate. In North Carolina, a murder that occurs during the commission of certain violent felonies such as burglary, robbery, and even some drug crimes can be considered a felony.

If a person commits murder in the absence of premeditation and deliberation, it could be due to a mental health problem that prevents them from premeditation and deliberation. Alternatively, a person who commits a murder could have believed that they were justified in doing so, despite facts to the contrary. In some cases, a killing may lack premeditation and deliberation simply because the situation did not allow time for it.

The two types of manslaughter are involuntary and voluntary. Voluntary manslaughter is generally a lesser included offense with murder. In some circumstances, involuntary manslaughter can be a lesser included offense of second degree murder, but it’s generally an unintentional killing. For example, a car wreck or some kind of accident in which a person died due to the gross negligence of another individual would be considered involuntary manslaughter. It is important to keep in mind that there are various factors that lead to certain types of offenses, but these are the general differences between murder and manslaughter.

Are Murder And Manslaughter Charges Bondable Offenses In North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a person accused of first degree murder has a right to pretrial release. However, if a person is accused of committing a capital crime, and the case has been declared to be a capital case, then that person does not have a right to pretrial release. Theoretically, if a case is not declared capital- meaning that the state is not going to pursue a death penalty- then pretrial release is an option. That being said, the bonds are generally set so high for these cases that very few people are able to afford it. Of course there are exceptions to this, and there are times when people do get released on first degree murder charges.

Second degree murder charges often result from vehicular homicide situations in which the person who caused an accident is accused of having done so with malice. Usually, that includes some prior conviction for driving while impaired. For these types of charges, people are often released on bond. It’s also not uncommon for people charged with manslaughter to be released on bond, since manslaughter charges are not as high a level of felony as murder. However, these lower offenses are charged less often. The most common homicide charge is probably first degree murder. I don’t have statistics for that, but I don’t see many charges of second degree murder or manslaughter.

The short answer is that for all of these charges, a person would be eligible for bond with the exception of first degree murder charges where the state is pursuing the death penalty. Under those circumstances, a judge could set bond, but it is not required. For all the other charges, a judge has to set conditions for release. The higher the level of offense, the more difficult it is to meet those conditions. One of those conditions is the monetary portion of the bond, which is usually the factor that is most difficult to fulfill.

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