Criminal Law

Criminal Homicide

  • Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter
  • Manslaughter by Neligence

Criminal Homicide—Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter

Definition: The willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another.

As a general rule, any death caused by injuries received in a fight, argument, quarrel, assault, or commission of a crime is classified as Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter (1a).

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Criminal Homicide—Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter (1a):

  1. A berserk gunman shot and killed three pedestrians. The police subdued the offender and placed him under arrest.
  2. A neighbor discovered an infant who had been beaten. The neighbor rushed the infant to the hospital. The infant later died as a direct result of the injuries. Investigation revealed that the mother was responsible. The mother was not considered mentally competent, and the district attorney did not wish to prosecute.
  3. A man shot and killed his neighbor in an argument over the location of their property line. The police arrested the man and charged him with murder.
  4. A husband and wife had an argument. The wife shot the husband and severely wounded him. He grabbed the gun and shot and killed her. The husband survived his wounds. The police subsequently arrested him.
  5. A man was in a fight on the second floor of a building. During the fight, he was knocked through a window and fell to his death. No arrest was made.
  6. While attempting to break up a fight, a man was struck over the head with an ashtray by one of the combatants. During the incident, a pre-existing aneurysm burst in the man's head, causing his death. No arrest was made.
  7. A psychiatrist counseling a young female patient performed a criminal abortion on her. She died of peritonitis resulting from the operation. The psychiatrist fled the state and is still wanted for the crime.
  8. A teller chased a robber from a bank. The robber fired at him. His shot missed the teller but killed a woman walking on the street. The police did not locate the robber.
  9. While playing cards, two men got into an argument. The first man attacked the second with a broken bottle. The second man pulled a gun and killed the first. The police arrested the shooter; he claimed self-defense. The police found no other witnesses.
  10. A felon fleeing in her car attempted to get through a police roadblock. As a result, she struck and killed two police officers.

Agencies must not classify the following as Criminal Homicide—Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter (1a):

  • Suicides
  • Accidental deaths
  • Fetal deaths
  • Assaults to murder
  • Traffic fatalities
  • Attempts to murder

Suicides, traffic fatalities, and fetal deaths are excluded from the UCR Program; however, some accidental deaths are classified as Criminal Homicide—Manslaughter by Negligence (lb). Attempts and assaults to murder must be classified as aggravated assaults. (See page 23.)

Situations in which a victim dies of a heart attack as the result of a crime are not classified as criminal homicide. A heart attack cannot, in fact, be caused at will by an offender. Even in instances where an individual is known to have a weak heart, there is no assurance that an offender can cause sufficient emotional or physical stress to guarantee that the victim will suffer a fatal heart attack.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must not classify as Criminal Homicide—Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter (1a):

  1. A man was despondent over the breakup of his marriage. Police officers discovered his body in his home office with a bullet wound to his head and a revolver still in his hand. They also found a suicide note in the victim's handwriting on his desk.
  2. A woman was attacked by her boyfriend, who struck her several times in the abdomen with a baseball bat. The victim was eight months pregnant at the time of the attack. Her baby was stillborn. (Refer to Aggravated Assault, page 23.)
  3. A woman swerved her vehicle to avoid hitting a dog in the road. She struck and killed two children playing near the roadway.
  4. A convenience store clerk was robbed at gunpoint. The victim, who was under a doctor's care from previous heart surgery, had a heart attack as the heart attack during the robbery. He collapsed and died in the store. (Refer to Robbery.)

Justifiable Homicide

Certain willful killings must be classified as justifiable or excusable. In UCR, Justifiable Homicide is defined as and limited to:

  • The killing of a felon by a peace officer in the line of duty.
  • The killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen.

NOTE: To submit offense data to the UCR Program, law enforcement agencies must report the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one individual by another, not the criminal liability of the person or persons involved.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies would consider Justifiable Homicide:

  1. A police officer answered a bank alarm and surprised the robber coming out of the bank. The robber saw the responding officer and fired at him. The officer returned fire, killing the robber. The officer was charged in a court of record as a matter of routine in such cases.
  2. When a gunman entered a store and attempted to rob the proprietor, the storekeeper shot and killed the felon.

NOTE: Justifiable homicide, by definition, occurs in conjunction with other offenses. Therefore, the crime being committed when the justifiable homicide took place must be reported as a separate offense. Reporting agencies should take care to ensure that they do not classify a killing as justifiable or excusable solely on the claims of self-defense or on the action of a coroner, prosecutor, grand jury, or court.

The following scenario illustrates an incident known to law enforcement that reporting agencies would not consider Justifiable Homicide:

  • While playing cards, two men got into an argument. The first man attacked the second with a broken bottle. The second man pulled a gun and killed his attacker. The police arrested the shooter; he claimed self-defense.

Criminal Homicide—Manslaughter by Negligence

Definition: The killing of another person through gross negligence.

As a general rule, any death caused by the gross negligence of another is classified as Criminal Homicide—Manslaughter by Negligence (1b).

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must classify as Criminal Homicide—Manslaughter by Negligence (1b):

  1. While two juveniles were playing with a gun, one playfully pointed it at the other. The youth pointing the gun fired it and killed the other. At the time of arrest, the juvenile claimed no knowledge of the gun being loaded.
  2. A target shooter was practicing in an unincorporated wooded area near some houses. One shot missed the target and killed a resident. The police arrested the shooter.

The following scenarios illustrate incidents known to law enforcement that reporting agencies must not classify as Manslaughter by Negligence (1b):

  1. A man was riding his motorcycle without a helmet and ran off the roadway. He was killed in the subsequent crash.
  2. A woman slipped on her neighbors' icy sidewalk and died as a result of the fall.
  3. A woman was a passenger in a man's car. The man drove through an ungated railroad crossing. A train struck the car, killing both the driver and the passenger.
  4. A man drove his pickup truck recklessly and exited the interstate at a high rate of speed. While attempting a right turn at the first intersection, he lost control of his vehicle and struck and killed three pedestrians standing at a bus stop. The police arrested the driver at the scene for vehicular manslaughter.

NOTE: Deaths of persons due to their own negligence, accidental deaths not resulting from gross negligence, and traffic fatalities are not included in the category Manslaughter by Negligence. The findings of a court, coroner's inquest, etc., do not affect classifying or scoring; these are law enforcement statistics.