Mufreesboro Criminal Defense Attorney

Understanding the Types of Homicide in Tennessee

When an individual ends up dead and that death was not the result of natural causes, anyone who caused or contributed to the decedent’s death might be charged with a criminal homicide offense in Tennessee.  A homicide can be charged as first or second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, vehicular homicide, or reckless homicide. To help you understand the difference, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains the various types of homicide in Tennessee.

What Is First-Degree Murder in Tennessee?

First-degree murder is the most serious type of homicide and ranks among the most serious of all criminal offenses. Punishable by death or a lifeMufreesboro Criminal Defense Attorney sentence (with or without parole), first-degree murder is defined as any of the following:

  • A premeditated and intentional killing of another. Premeditation is defined as “an act done after the exercise of reflection and judgment.”
  • A killing of another committed in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate certain felonies (known as “felony murder”).
  • A killing of another committed as the result of the unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

What Is Second-Degree Murder in Tennessee? 

Second-degree murder, charged as a Class A felony and punishable by a term of imprisonment of 15 to 60 years, is defined as any of the following:

  • A knowing killing of another.
  • A killing of another that results from the unlawful distribution of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug, when the drug is the proximate cause of the death of the user.
  • A killing of another by unlawful distribution or unlawful delivery or unlawful dispensation of fentanyl or carfentanil when those substances…are the proximate cause of the death of the user.

What Is Voluntary Manslaughter in Tennessee?

Voluntary manslaughter in Tennessee is defined as “intentional or knowing killing of another in a state of passion produced by adequate provocation sufficient to lead a reasonable person to act in an irrational manner.” Homicides that fall into the voluntary manslaughter category of often referred to as “heat of passion” killings. Charged as a Class C felony, a voluntary manslaughter conviction is punishable by three to 15 years in prison.

What Is Criminally Negligent Homicide in Tennessee?

Tennessee law defines criminally negligent homicide as “criminally negligent conduct that results in death.”  Criminally negligent conduct occurs when there is “a substantial and unjustifiable risk” and the risk must be of such a nature and degree that “the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the person’s standpoint.” Charged as a Class E felony, a conviction for criminally negligent homicide can be incur a sentence of one to six years in prison.

What Is Vehicular Homicide in Tennessee?

Vehicular homicide in Tennessee is the reckless killing of another by the operation of an automobile, airplane, motorboat, or other motor vehicle, as the proximate result of any of the following:

  • Conduct creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to a person.
  • The driver’s intoxication (alcohol or drugs).
  • Conduct constituting the offense of drag racing.
  • The driver’s conduct in a posted construction zone where the person killed was an employee of the department of transportation or a highway construction worker.

Vehicular homicide may be charged as a Class B or Class C felony and is punishable by a term of imprisonment of 8-30 or 3-15 years, respectively.

What Is Reckless Homicide in Tennessee?

Defines as the “reckless killing of another,” reckless homicide is charged as a Class D felony, punishable by two to 12 years in prison. Reckless conduct is viewed through a reasonableness lens, asking whether a reasonable person would engage in the conduct in question, knowing there was an increased risk involved, under the same circumstances.

Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett