Broadly defined, homicide is any killing of another person that is not legally justified. However, the amount of time a defendant can serve in prison will depend on the mental state they had when they committed the killing. Because this inquiry is so dependent on the facts surrounding a killing, you should meet with a Georgia criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of homicide.
The most severe form of homicide is murder. Unlike other states, Georgia does not divide murder into first-degree and second-degree. Instead, you commit murder in the following situations:
- You acted while intending to kill another person.
- You acted with disregard for human life. For example, you drove your car into a crowd or shot a gun at a group of people. You might not have intended to kill someone, but your actions show complete lack of regard for the life of the people near you.
- You killed someone while committing another felony, such as rape or sexual assault. This is called “felony murder.”
The minimum punishment for murder is life in prison. Depending on the circumstances, you could also be sentenced to death as punishment.
Voluntary manslaughter is a form of homicide, but Georgia considers it less serious than murder because of the killer’s mental state. When you commit voluntary manslaughter, you intentionally kill another person but do so because of a violent, sudden passion brought about by a serious provocation. If convicted, the punishment is 1 to 20 years in prison.
The provocation must be sufficiently serious that a reasonable person’s passions would be excited. Also, there cannot have been any “cooling off” period between the provocation and the killing, otherwise the defendant will be charged with murder.
Involuntary manslaughter is a less serious form of homicide than murder or voluntary manslaughter because it is unintentional. Nevertheless, it is a serious crime that Georgia takes seriously.
To commit involuntary manslaughter, you unintentionally kill another person by committing an illegal or reckless act. For example, you might punch someone in the face or have struck a pedestrian while speeding. In these situations, your actions were wrong, yet you didn’t commit them with the intent of killing another person.
The maximum punishment for involuntary manslaughter is 10 years in prison. Depending on the circumstances, you might only be convicted of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.
How an Alpharetta, Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
As you can see, the dividing line between different types of homicide often hinges on the mental state of the killer. A homicide might be murder if the jury thinks your actions exhibited a disregard for the life of another person, or it might be involuntary manslaughter if the jury believes you merely acted recklessly. The difference in punishment could be substantial—life in prison (for murder) or 10 years (for involuntary manslaughter). A skilled criminal defense attorney proves their worth by convincing a jury that you acted with a less culpable mental state.
At The Bulldog Firm, we represent those accused of violent crimes like homicide. Our attorneys will carefully investigate the surrounding circumstances to identify your strongest defense possible. Call us today at 770-408-7000 or complete our online contact sheet.