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Are Murder and Homicide the Same Thing?

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Murder vs Homicide in Texas

Most people are familiar with the terms murder and homicide. These terms are frequently used in criminal cases as well as in regular, day-to-day speech. But do these terms refer to the same action or do they refer to distinct crimes?

It’s common knowledge that both murder and homicide can be applied to cases where one person kills another. However, the way that these terms are used can create confusion, especially in legal cases. Looking a little closer at the definition of these words can shed some light on the actual meaning of these words and why they are used.

Defining Murder and Homicide

When it comes to legal definitions, there is only a slight difference between the terms murder and homicide. To be specific, a homicide is the act of killing another person. This means that any time a person takes the life of another person, they have committed a homicide.

The definition of murder is slightly different. A murder is an intentional killing of another person. This means that a person took the life of another intentionally, willingly and sometimes with planning beforehand.

To illustrate this difference, imagine that Joe is working on a construction site. He accidentally drops a concrete block from a great height and it strikes and kills a pedestrian. Joe has committed a homicide, although it was an accidental action.

In another scenario, imagine that Joe wants to eliminate his rival, Alex. He waits for Alex to walk under a high building and then Joe drops a concrete block on him. Joe has committed murder because he intended to take Alex’s life. While both acts are technically homicide, one of them has a much great potential penalty because it was done intentionally.

The Importance of Intent

In order to convict someone of murder in a court of law, the prosecution must introduce evidence to point to a intentional act. Of course, it’s impossible to read someone’s mind so the prosecution must use evidence based on a person’s statements, actions or behaviors related to a killing.

There are several ways to establish intent, such as:

  • Motive
  • Planning
  • Preparation

Motive can play a big part in a murder case. Although sometimes random killings occur, most acts of murder are committed for a specific reason. The reason could be jealousy, revenge or simply a means to commit another crime. Whatever the reason, if the prosecution can show that the defendant had a reason to kill someone, it’s that much easier to prove a murder charge.

Planning is another important component of a murder charge. Sudden, unexpected killings, such as crimes of passion, may be considered less severe than a first degree murder charge. However, a person who makes plans to commit murder may face the most severe legal penalties, including the death penalty. Examples of planning could include studying a victim’s schedule, staking out house or luring a victim into a trap.

Preparation is a clear indication of a murderous intent. If a person wants to get revenge on someone else and then goes out to buy a gun, purchase ammunition and train at a gun range before shooting the victim, it is fairly clear that they have criminal intent.

Legal Penalties

The penalties for murder can be very severe. For example, a first degree murder conviction can lead to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty.

An accidental or reckless killing can have strict punishments as well. Negligent homicide can get a defendant up to 20 years in Texas prison if a conviction is reached.

A defense attorney may be able to help a person accused of murder by building a strong legal defense. A lawyer can introduce evidence that suggests that a killing was accidental rather than premeditated. If this is successful, the result could be years in prison rather than decades.


Has someone you know been charged with murder or homicide? These are some of the most serious crimes one can commit and they require an expert defense. Matthew Sharp is aggressive, smart, and can help in this time of need. Contact his office today at (713) 868-6100.

 

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