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Why is intent the key to murder charges?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2021 | Murder/Homicide

The terms homicide and murder are often used interchangeably as if they mean the same thing. But they do not. Murder is a very specific type of homicide.

In general, homicide just means that someone lost their life due to the actions of someone else. That does not necessarily mean it was murder. Arkansas law recognizes six categories, which in order of severity, are as follows:

  • Capital murder
  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Negligent homicide
  • Physician-assisted suicide

Even if it is indisputable that a homicide has taken place, it is crucial to discern which charge it would actually fit under, and that usually means considering intent.

The impact of intent on your case 

Generally speaking, for homicide to qualify as a high-level murder, there needs to be intent by one person to take the other person’s life. They need to have planned to do so and then acted upon that plan successfully. 

If there was no plan, then it is generally not classified as first-degree murder. It may still be a lesser charge, such as second-degree murder, negligent homicide or manslaughter. But understanding intent could help you fight first-degree murder charges or at least seek lesser charges for the same event.

In this light, it’s important to understand all of the legal options at your disposal. You need to know that the charges you’re facing fit the crime you’re accused of committing so that you are not charged with a crime you did not commit that carries more severe consequences.