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Homicide charges are serious, no matter what their official name

When we read about homicide trials in the newspaper, we often will read sentences like this one:

"The judge told the jurors they could consider murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter in their deliberations."

But what's the difference?

When someone dies at the hands of another, it's considered homicide, no matter what the charge turns out to be.

In Georgia, murder is the most serious of the homicide charges. Murder charges apply when prosecutors believe one person planned the death of another, such as when it is alleged one business partner killed another to gain control of the company.

There also is a "felony murder" charge. In those instances, a homicide occurred during the act of committing another crime. For instance, if someone is burglarizing a home and gets scared and shoots and kills the homeowner, that qualifies as a felony murder charge. The alleged burglar didn't plan to kill the homeowner — but did.

Murder and felony murder cases, because of the serious natures of the crimes, typically bring significant sentences upon conviction, including the death penalty or life in prison.

Georgia also allows convictions on charges of voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

While murder is considered to be an intentional killing, manslaughter could mean the death is the result of an accident. It is not planned or premeditated, and the sentence for a conviction therefore typically is less than for murder.

Homicide – whether charged as murder or manslaughter – is a serious offense. There are legal defenses, such as self-defense, defense of another or mistaken identity. A criminal defense attorney can provide advice and strategy when someone is arrested on murder or manslaughter charges.

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