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Homicide is not an actual crime, but is the legal term for killing a person. When most people hear the term "homicide," they are actually thinking of the crime of murder. Murder is the crime of one person killing another, unlawfully, with malice aforethought, (i.e., the deliberate intention to kill; a necessary element of murder).

There are many levels of homicide. "Murder in the second degree" is a killing where the intent did not materialize until the actual moment of the act. A killing committed in a sudden fit of passion is often murder in the second degree. Another type of homicide is "manslaughter." Manslaughter is something less than murder, as it does not require any intent either before or at the time of the homicide. Intoxicated drivers who kill another person while operating their vehicle are often charged with manslaughter.

A "felony-murder" can result in the death penalty in many states and under federal law. When a death occurs during the commission of a felony, a felony-murder has occurred. For example, if a robber accidentally injures someone during a robbery (a felony), and that person later dies from the injury, the robber has committed a felony-murder. Additionally, any individuals involved or participating in the felony, such as a lookout, can be charged with felony-murder, even if they did not actually commit the murder or injury.

Some homicides may be lawful, and prosecutors will not pursue charges against the perpetrator, as the homicide is justified. The most common example is that of the homeowner defending his property or life against an individual who broke into the house seeking to commit a crime. However, the homeowner may not use more force than necessary.