The Conclusive Guide to Justifiable Homicide


What is justifiable homicide? Justifiable homicide is killing someone under certain circumstances or out of necessity (self-defense), like a call of duty. The acts of excusable homicide have no criminal intent, and once proven in a court of law, the accused is absolved and set free. 

Justifiable homicide differs from a crime of passion and is punished by a lesser sentence. Although defending property by itself isn’t enough homicide defense, it may be justifiable if self-defense is necessary to defend property. If these terms sound strange to you, Amiri Family Law will help you understand and provide you with legal counsel. 

Circumstances When Homicide is Justifiable

Homicide is when a person dies, which can happen by accident when killing is necessary. Homicide is justifiable if it occurs in these circumstances. 

  • Self-defense
  • Capital punishment
  • Police shootings

Excusable killing can also happen in the heat of passion when someone experiences severe emotional trauma to something and, as a result, acts hastily and unreasonably. However, the defendant must prove the following to convince the court.

  • The accused committed homicide in the heat of passion
  • There was a provocation by the person killed. 
  • The defendant didn’t take unfair advantage to kill the victim.
  • There was a dangerous weapon used.
  • The defendant wasn’t cruel to the other person.
  • There was no intention of killing the victim.

Law Provisions on Self-Defense?

Self-defense is when someone uses deadly force to respond to a threat or great bodily harm. The customary law recognizes self-defense when someone is protecting themselves from death; in this case, homicide is excusable. Some states recognize deadly force when defending property, and the defendant should prove that he was in imminent danger. Here are several states like Colorado, Louisiana, and California. 

In California, under penal codes 195, 196, and 197, PC homicide is killing another person, and it’s a crime. However, the same laws state that in some circumstances, homicide is justifiable when it happens by accident. 

Citizens have a right to protect themselves or their property but should only use necessary force when exercising self-defense. However, they can also explore other options, like an escape, known as the duty to retreat.

Defense of a person’s home or property

California protects property as a justifiable homicide if someone kills another while defending his home or property. The castle doctrine comes into play, and the defendant must demonstrate the following.

  • The death happened when defending his home or property.
  • The dead intruder had a deadly weapon he intended to use to cause bodily injury.
  • The defendant believed that he was under threat of deadly harm was imminent.
  • The defendant acted with the necessary force to counter the imminent threat.
  • The force used by the accused to guard the property against threats was reasonable.

For this defense to be effective, there’s an intruder who intended to commit a crime like assault, robbery or cause mayhem to a person or other people.

Difference Between Homicide and Murder

It’s a homicide when someone kills another in certain circumstances. A homicide is, however, a crime if someone kills another unlawfully. Homicide crimes can be murder and manslaughter; the state deals with felonies differently. It would be murder if the killing were unlawful and premeditated. 

Killing can be less murder, depending on the killer’s intent. It would be murder if the killing were premeditated, while manslaughter is a lesser charge because it is unlawful and was committed out of provocation. The difference between the two circumstances lies in the intent of the act.

Punishment for Murder

The punishment for murder in most states is a sentence of imprisonment for many years. Generally, a person found guilty of first-degree murder can receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole. A second-degree murder case carries a lesser charge. The federal government and the U.S. military allow the death penalty for aggravated murder, which applies to almost half of the states.

How Is Manslaughter Punished?

The punishment for manslaughter varies in different states, but the charges are lesser than any other degree of murder. Maximum prison sentences range from several to 15 years. A person convicted of involuntary manslaughter might not be imprisoned, while the opposite happens for another found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. 

How is Homicide Justifiable?

In some circumstances, killing another person is excusable. For instance, Mercy attacks Mark, and in self-defense, he kills her. The law will favor Mark. Self-defense can happen if the killer wasn’t the aggressor, he had a reasonable belief that he was in danger, or they used necessary force to defend himself.

Any killing is a crime, but if it happened under circumstances where the defendant acted to defend themselves, it might be justified. If self-defense is proven, the defendant is acquitted, and if a person kills another while defending others, he isn’t the aggressor. Here are other circumstances when homicide is justifiable. 

  • Police officers can kill someone in the line of duty if they believe his life is in danger or if there’s a looming danger to the public.
  • Murder was out of necessity to avoid more harm to society, and the defendant acted in a way that the defendant chose an action that ended in death. The defense of necessity justifies homicide if the defendant argues that the crime was necessary to avoid more significant harm. 
  • A person acting under duress or coercion then commits an act that results in death. However, some states classify duress as an excusable homicide, not justification. 

The Meaning of Stand Your Ground

Most states have laws that terminate retreat, but the doctrines differ from one state to another. In some states, the duty is suspended when a life is at risk, while a property is suspended in other circumstances. The provisions may come in different terminologies, like a line in the sand or stand your ground, which is more popular.

Some statutes only recognize the use of deadly force in self-defense or by a homeowner; such laws are known as castle doctrine. Stand your ground and castle doctrine differ because the latter doesn’t extend beyond the home, and the other does. 


If you’re in trouble, like using deadly force on another person while protecting yourself, others, or property. The homicide wasn’t intended to happen, but it did in self-defense. Contact an experienced lawyer immediately to inform you how to use state laws in your defense. 


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