Difference Between Homicide and Murder

Murder and manslaughter are two punishable acts that carry criminal sanctions depending on the seriousness of the act. Both terms imply ending the life of a person, however, from the legal point of view there are notable differences that determine to a large extent the sanction or penalty that the person who commits said acts must comply with.

Therefore, in this article we will present the differences between murder and homicide starting from their brief definitions, for the consideration of the readers.


Homicide is considered to be the act by which the death of another person is caused without the assumptions of treachery (premeditation and certainty that the victim will not be able to defend himself), cruelty (deliberate increase in suffering in the victim) or concurrence of price (carrying out the done for financial or material gain).

There are different types of homicide, depending on the type of crime committed, such as:

  • Intentional homicide : the one where you can have the intention of killing someone but not be merciless, nor do it treacherously or under reward.
  • Involuntary manslaughter : one where someone kills another person without the real intention of doing so.
  • Wrongful death: one where a fault in the performance of a professional or a person in charge causes the death of another person.

It is important to note that involuntary or negligent homicides are also called wrongful death. In some countries, the term intentional or negligent is replaced by the terms murder in the first or second degree, respectively. In some cases, they are called voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter but they have the characteristics mentioned as a common factor.

Likewise, the penalty to which the person guilty of homicide is subject varies depending on the aggravating circumstances mentioned. Therefore, a manslaughter (involuntary or negligent) or intentional (voluntary), generally, may not have the maximum penalty to which the person who commits aggravated homicide is subjected.


Murder is the act by which a person’s life is taken and in it the following aggravating circumstances are demonstrated:

  • Treachery : it is carried out with premeditation and causing a situation in which the victim cannot defend himself or is in a condition of inferiority or helplessness.
  • Cruelty : occurs when the aggressor inhumanely increases the pain and suffering of the victim.
  • Concurrence of price : the crime is committed in exchange for receiving economic or material compensation.

In the same sense, for a case to be considered murder, only one of these aggravating circumstances, two of them, or a combination of all three can be present. According to the doctrine and jurisprudence, the penalty for a person who commits the crime of murder can be life imprisonment depending on the aggravating circumstances mentioned, where in some countries the maximum penalty is the death penalty.

We can highlight that, in some countries such as Argentina, murder is a type of homicide qualified with aggravating factors such as those previously mentioned, but in general, murder is the act of ending the life of a person with the aforementioned aggravating circumstances.

As can be seen, the differences between homicide and murder have to do with the aggravating factors that can be found in both cases. In this aspect, we have to:

  • Homicide lacks the aggravating factors of treachery, cruelty and concurrence of price while murder has the aggravating factors (one or more) of treachery, cruelty and/or concurrence of price.
  • Homicide can be intentional (intentional) or involuntary (culpable) while murder is always voluntary and intentional.
  • Homicide does not carry the maximum sentence (life sentence or death penalty) while murder can carry the maximum sentence (life sentence or death sentence).

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