There is no mistaking the fact that taking another person's life is not tolerated by the law unless there are very specific criteria present, such as it being done in self defense. There are many different types of homicide charges that a person can face in Missouri.
When you are charged with killing someone in this state, your top concern should be finding out what type of charge you are facing. This is important because it can impact the penalties.
Homicide isn't always a crime
A homicide occurs any time a person is killed for any non-natural reason. This means that not all homicides are criminal matters. The matter might be manslaughter, murder or neither. It is up to the appropriate authorities to determine what, if any, crime a person will face in connection with a killing.
Killings that aren't due to malice are considered manslaughter in this state. There are two different classifications of manslaughter here.
- Voluntary: This is reserved for purposeful killings that happen in the heat of passion or during a sudden quarrel.
- Involuntary: This means that a person was killed due to a lawful action that was grossly negligent or an illegal action that wasn't felonious.
When a homicide is malicious, the person can face murder charges. This state recognizes two forms of murder, known as degrees. First degree is the most serious.
One of the following must be true for a first degree murder charge:
- Killing must have been deliberate and premeditated.
- It must have been cruel or atrocious.
- It must have happened during the commission of a felony, the flight from a felony or during the preparation for a felony.
Any malicious killing that doesn't meet one of these three points is a second degree murder. While this might not have the same penalties as first degree murder, defendants must still take the charges seriously.
Even if you haven't been formally charged with murder or manslaughter, remember that you have rights. One of these is that you have a right to not incriminate yourself. You also have a right to remain silent and to have legal representation. These can become important in homicide cases, so be sure that you are invoking these rights from the start of the case.