Different Types of Homicide
There are four major classifications of criminal homicide in Tennessee:
As mentioned above, murder is the intentional killing of another. First-degree murder specifically can be defined as any murder that was premeditated — meaning it was planned and subsequently carried out. Second-degree murder lacks the planning element but maintains the intent to kill.
Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as a “crime of passion,” occurring in the heat of the moment when one person acts irrationally and kills another person. The most common example would be when a spouse comes home and discovers that their partner is having an affair and, in the heat of the moment, lashes out and kills their partner.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Criminally negligent homicide involves the death of someone caused by the negligence of another. The defendant was aware of the risks of their actions, failed to act properly, and these negligent actions resulted in the death of another. For example, if someone leaves a child locked in a hot vehicle and the child dies, they could be charged with criminally negligent homicide.
Vehicular homicide is the reckless killing of another while operating a vehicle, boat, plane, or other motor vehicle.
Possible Penalties for Homicide Convictions
Penalties for homicide convictions are severe and include the following:
- A conviction for first-degree murder can result in death, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or life in prison.
- A conviction for second-degree murder, a Class A felony, can result in imprisonment from 15 to 60 years and a fine of $50,000.
- A voluntary manslaughter conviction is a Class C felony which can result in three to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- A criminally negligent homicide conviction, a Class E felony, can result in up to five years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
- A vehicular homicide conviction is considered a Class C felony that can result in the same penalties as a voluntary manslaughter conviction, meaning three to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Possible Defenses for Homicide Charges
There are some defenses your attorney may use to have homicide charges dropped, obtain a finding of not guilty, or reduce sentencing penalties if you are found guilty in a criminal court. These defense strategies include any of the following:
- Justifiable Homicide - This is a defense that excuses your actions under the law, which means you are not held accountable for the death. Those defenses might include self-defense, defense of property, duress, or an attempt to prevent another crime.
- Inability to Intentionally Kill - This defense involves proving insanity, diminished capacity, intoxication, or being unconscious during the homicide.
- Reasonable Mistake - This defense means proving that you believed the killing was legal and justified. This could involve producing evidence that you believed your life was at risk. It could also involve proving entrapment, such as when law enforcement solicited, encouraged, or induced you to kill.
Hire an Experienced
Criminal Defense Attorney
Being charged with homicide means you could be facing some of the most severe penalties under Tennessee law. Regardless of your status of guilt or innocence, you are entitled to the best legal defense possible from a homicide defense attorney dedicated to protecting your rights. At my firm, The Law Offices of Fisher Wise, I have spent years proudly serving clients in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee who have been charged with homicide and don’t know where to turn. You deserve a strong advocate and experienced litigator in your corner, so don’t wait. Call or reach out to my firm today to get the help you need.