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What Are Some Excusable Homicide Examples?

Kaylind Landes
5 minute read

When broken down to its Latin origins, “homicide” translates to “man-killing.” Today, the word is almost synonymous with murder; terms like “aggravated homicide” and “reckless homicide” appear frequently in news reports covering crimes.

But homicide does not always equate directly to a cold-blooded or premeditated killing. The law allows some nuance that takes into account the situation in which a homicide occurs. Legally speaking, there is a difference between the person who set out to kill and a person who, say, kills in self-defense or accidentally. The lattermost crime is sometimes referred to as excusable homicide.

In short, how a homicide occurs, and the intent behind it, impacts what charges (if any) are brought, as well as what criminal defense their attorney might present.

Excusable Homicide: The Legal Definition

Before going any further, we need to establish what excusable homicide is versus how it may be interpreted by citizens.

According to Oklahoma Statute 21-731, excusable homicide is the following:

“1. When committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act, by lawful means, with usual and ordinary caution, and without any unlawful intent.

2. When committed by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat provided that no undue advantage is taken, nor any dangerous weapon used, and that the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.”

Roughly paraphrased, excusable homicide covers accidental and sudden deaths that had no criminal intent behind them. But how do those legal terms translate into real life? What is the difference between excusable homicide and other types of homicide? And where does self-defense fall in all this?

Excusable Homicide Examples

One excusable homicide example might be a person who is attacked while walking down the street. The person shoves the attacker, who falls, hits his head on the sidewalk, and dies from the injury. This is technically homicide, but the person who was attacked did not intend to cause the death and was simply reacting.

Tragic accidents may also fall under the excusable homicide statute. In an example from 2016, Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge declined to file charges against the aunt of a 49-day-old baby who was left in the backseat of a car. In his statement to the Muskogee Police Department, he cited the excusable homicide statute and declared the baby’s death an accident without any unlawful intent.

Excusable Homicide vs. Justifiable Homicide

Excusable homicide may sometimes be conflated with or used alongside justifiable homicide, but in the eyes of the law, they are not quite the same thing. Whereas you’ll see that all excusable homicide examples involve accidental deaths, justifiable homicide is defined as the killing of a human being under circumstances where the killer’s actions were, as recognized by the law, warranted and without any guilt or criminal intent.

Examples of justifiable homicide may include someone protecting themselves from a violent intruder or a police officer killing a suspect during an altercation while carrying out their duties. Killing a person while trying to prevent them from carrying out a felony may also qualify as justifiable homicide.

In 2020, the Oklahoma County District Attorney (DA) declined to press charges against a man who shot his neighbor. The man answered the door with his gun in-hand; the neighbor argued with him and attempted to grab the gun; the man discharged the weapon, killing the neighbor. The DA described the shooting as a justifiable homicide because, under Oklahoma’s Castle Doctrine, a homeowner can use deadly force against an intruder if the homeowner believes they are in danger of death or severe harm.

Getting Expert Help

Proving an excusable or justifiable homicide will come down to many factors, including witnesses, recordings, your history, and your actions immediately after the homicide. A DA may decline to press charges at all—or you may need to go to court to prove a homicide was excusable.

An experienced attorney can review your case and provide more examples of excusable homicide, helping you successfully navigate these legal waters so you can secure the most favorable outcome for your case. Contact us today for a free evaluation.