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The Five Types of Homicide In Louisiana Law

Louisiana’s homicide rate in 2021 was 15.8 per 100,000 people, a statistic that maintained Louisiana’s status as the state with the highest homicide rate. It begs the question - how does the Louisiana legal system respond to the homicide crisis? How are homicides defined and tried?

The Five Types of Homicide In Louisiana Law
The Five Types of Homicide In Louisiana Law

According to the Louisiana Revised Statutes title 14, (La. R.S. § 14: 29), homicide is defined as the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable omission of another. The Louisiana homicide statutes have been updated frequently to change the criminal definitions of homicide in order to provide recourse for increasing and evolving violent crimes.

Today, there are five grades of homicide in Louisiana, namely first-degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and vehicular homicide. Each homicide is distinct, with differing legal recourses and definitions. Here is a detailed guide.

The Five Grades of Homicides in Louisiana

First Degree Murder

First degree murder, as per the La. R.S. § 14:30, refers to the killing a human being with the “specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm.” This act of murder could be under some of the following conditions:

  1. When the offender receives or has been offered anything of value for killing,

  2. When the offender inflicts harm or intends to kill a person below age 12 or a person 65 years and older.

  3. When the offender is engaged or attempts to engage in the distribution, sale, or exchange of controlled dangerous substances.

  4. When the offender has specific intent to kill or to harm victims involved in a prior legal process wherein the killing is used to prevent or influence testimony or is used to exact revenge for previous testimony.

The definition of first-degree murder also extends to the offense of inflicting bodily harm or intending to kill Louisiana firefighters, peace officers, or civilian workers who are employed by the Louisiana State Police. According to the first-degree murder statute, it will also be considered a first-degree murder if the offender engages in the attempt or perpetration of other modes of crime, including aggravated kidnapping and arson, first degree robbery, or terrorism.

Punishment for First Degree Murder: A person who is convicted of first-degree murder will be either subject to capital punishment or life imprisonment at hard labor. The offender will not have the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of the sentence.

A first degree murder trial can result in the district attorney calling for the death penalty in accordance with jury verdicts and the Code of Criminal Procedure Article 782. However, if the district attorney does not call for capital punishment, the offender will be served a life imprisonment.

Second Degree Murder

Second degree murder refers to the murder of a human being where the offender killed or caused great bodily harm to the victim with a specific intent to kill or cause great bodily harm.

As in the case of a first-degree murder, the offender can be involved in other crimes like rape or can unlawfully distribute a controlled dangerous substance. La. R.S. § 14:30.1 states that the offender can also be charged if the ingestion of the controlled substance directly causes the death of the victim.

Punishment for Second Degree Murder: A second degree murder can lead to an offender being imprisoned for life at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of the sentence. However, unlike a first degree murder cases, second degree murders do not lead to capital punishment.


According to La. R.S. § 14:31, manslaughter refers to a type of homicide with the specific intent to kill, and the murder happens in a moment of sudden violent passion that is provoked. The provocation here would need to be enough to deprive a normal individual of their composure.

Further, a manslaughter offender can be defined as those who kill a human being while engaged in felonies or other intentional misdemeanors or while resisting lawful arrests in a manner not inherently dangerous.

Punishment for Manslaughter: A person who is convicted of manslaughter can be imprisoned at hard labor for up to 40 years. Manslaughter convictions do not result in the death penalty.

Negligent Homicide

Negligent homicide refers to the unintentional killing of another human being through criminal negligence. La. R.S. § 14:32 notes that a murder can be determined as a negligent homicide if violated statutes and ordinances exist, which can be used as “presumptive evidence” of negligent behavior.

Negligent homicides can occur in healthcare scenarios, for instance, where a healthcare worker displays criminal negligence through the careless disregard of a person’s safety in their care, for example, ignoring lethal symptoms.

Punishment for Negligent Homicide: Negligent homicide offenders can receive an imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of $5000. The imprisonment may not be at hard labor if the victim was over ten years old; however, if the victim were younger than ten, it would incur a mandatory hard labor sentence without benefits of probations or suspended sentences for two to five years.

Vehicular Homicide

Vehicular homicide refers to the act of killing via a vehicle or motorized mode of conveyance, including aircraft or boats. Under La. R.S. § 14:32.1(B), the offender is culpable if they are operating or controlling a vehicle that results in the killing or great bodily harm of another individual.

Culpability exists in a vehicular homicide even if there is no intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm. The offender’s sobriety, or their consumption of illegal controlled substances or alcohol, is specified as a condition that affects the charge of vehicular homicide.

Punishment for Vehicular Homicide: The offender can receive imprisonment of 30 years, a minimum of five years, with mandatory imprisonment of three years. The payable fines for the vehicular homicide charge can range from $2,000 to $15,000.

Legal Support for Those Persons Arrested For a Homicide

Are you looking for legal counsel to represent you in a homicide? The criminal defense team at the law offices of Gaynell Williams Law can offer support. We are open to provide legal counsel and assistance to all persons who are charged with a crime in the metro New Orleans, Louisiana area. At the Law Office of Gaynell Williams, L.L.C., we have the experience you need to defend those individuals who have been charged with a crime.

Contact Us Today

Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law offers a free initial consultation to discuss your case. The first consultation can be in person or it can be virtual, on the Internet. Call Gaynell Williams today at (504) 302-2462 for a free consultation as soon as possible. We will work around your schedule. New Orleans lawyers Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law have offices in Gretna and Downtown New Orleans by appointment only.

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may affect your legal rights.

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