justifiable homicide | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Justifiable homicide is a legal term used in criminal law to describe a killing that is considered lawful and justified under certain circumstances.

This term often varies slightly from place to place, as laws can differ. In general, justifiable homicide comes into play when a person ends up killing another in self-defense or to protect others. It also applies when someone is performing certain duties, like being a police officer or a soldier.

Self-Defense or Defense of Others

A person might face a situation where they genuinely feel that their life, or someone else’s, is at serious risk. Imagine a situation where you think you are about to be seriously injured or killed. If you act and end up killing the person threatening you, it may be deemed a justifiable homicide. The same goes if you’re defending someone else in imminent danger. But remember, the force you use must match the level of threat. For example, if someone is coming at you with raised fists, it would not be justifiable to use a gun to stop them, as this would be seen as excessive.

Performance of Duties

Let’s talk about people like police officers or soldiers. Their jobs often put them in dangerous situations where they might have to use deadly force. If they kill someone while performing their duties, it could be considered justifiable homicide. However, there are strict guidelines. The force used must be necessary and proportionate. If they exceed their authority or use excessive force, it might not be seen as justifiable.

Legal Consequences

Even if a killing is labeled as justifiable, it doesn’t mean there won’t be legal repercussions. The person who committed the killing might have to prove in court that their actions were justified. This could involve showing they had a reasonable belief of imminent danger and that the force used was necessary and proportionate. They might face an investigation and even a trial to ensure everything was lawful.

A Final Note

In conclusion, justifiable homicide is a complex concept and requires a careful assessment of the situation at hand. Remember, the use of force should always be the last resort. Although the law recognizes that there might be circumstances where killing is justified, it is always better to avoid such situations whenever possible. However, if faced with such a situation, it is crucial to understand the legalities involved to protect oneself from undue legal consequences.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/28/2023

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