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The Legal Difference Between Murder & Homicide

Crime shows have become incredibly popular, and while many of them do the best they can to accurately recreate a police investigation, they’re not always spot on. In these instances, a number of myths or misconceptions can slip into the public knowledge and become supposedly common knowledge. One of these mistakes is the use of the terms “murder” and “homicide” interchangeably; in reality there’s a very important difference between these two terms that can have a dramatic impact on your case should you ever find yourself facing charges.


The big difference between these two terms is that the act of taking someone’s life in any circumstance is automatically considered to be a “homicide.” This would mean “murder” is a type of homicide, along with the crime of “manslaughter.”

However, there’s another key difference: homicide may be justifiable, whereas murder never will be. For example, someone whose life has been placed in danger and defends themselves but kills their attacker in the process may not even be charged with a crime. In this instance, the public record will show that a “justifiable homicide” occurred. This does not carry criminal charges, nor does it have any consequences so long as this situation can be proven (which may require a trial).

This same principal is what allows police officers to use deadly force if necessary to protect the public. While the use of deadly force has come under serious scrutiny in recent months, the law does give officers the ability to take the life of an individual who is threatening to harm either the officer themselves or any other people around them.


As stated previously, murder is a type of homicide, but is a type that is never justifiable, and is one of the most heavily-punished crimes in our justice system. There are two recognized types of murder. Murder, including capital murder, first-degree murder, and second-degree murder, involves premeditated intent or reckless endangerment to the point where any reasonable person should have known the risk of the actions they were taking that resulted in the death of another.

Felony-murder is any killing that happens while committing another felony crime. For example, if a bank robber shoots and kills a bystander who tries to stop them in the act, the act will be considered a felony-murder. Life in prison or even the death penalty (in instance of capital murder) are both possibilities for committing this crime.

Regardless of what kind of homicide charges you are facing, the skilled Bakersfield criminal defense attorneys at Campbell Whitten are prepared to fight for your freedom. No matter how big or how small your case may be, our attorneys understand the impact it has on your life and the immense stress and emotional turmoil you are facing. We are proud of our long record of accomplishments and case successes, and our long list of industry awards and accolades stand as a testament to both our ethics and exceptional client service.

If you’re accused of a violent crime, call Campbell Whitten today at 661.305.1038 and request a case evaluation now!