In Ohio, a person charged with murder is accused of killing another human being purposefully; in other words, “murder” is when someone intends to kill another person. If no intent to kill exists, then it’s not “murder.” Anyone that is convicted of murder must be sentenced to life in prison, no exceptions. However, sometimes a conviction for murder can also result in the death penalty.
The crime of murder is one of many crimes in Ohio that covers actions that cause the death of another human being-or in legalese: homicide. While in everyday conversations we use “murder” to cover a broad range of different crimes, Ohio law has seven different offenses, of varying degrees of punishment, for what we all think of as “murder.”
The most serious charge is aggravated murder. A murder is considered “aggravated” based on the unique facts of the case. The State is likely to seek aggravated murder, for example, if it believes that the murder was premeditated-or planned out in advance; if the victim is very young; or if the victim is a police officer. Only aggravated murder carries the possibility of the death penalty in Ohio-and even then, the death penalty only applies to a very limited set of circumstances (e.g. assassinating the president or governor, if you are a hitman, killing someone during a violent crime like rape or robbery, or killing a witness who is testifying against you).
However, that doesn’t mean that the State is limited to charging someone only if it can prove that there was an intent to kill. A person can be charged with voluntary manslaughter (killing another because you were provoked), involuntary manslaughter (someone dies while you are committing a different crime), reckless homicide (someone dies because you ignored a high risk of causing death), negligent homicide (someone dies because you didn’t avoid acting in a way that could cause death), vehicular homicide (a broad range of crimes that can be charged if you cause a death while driving your vehicle).
Any charge of homicide is a very serious charge. It’s important to speak with an attorney who has experience handling homicide cases so that you understand your rights and the severity of the charges against you before you speak with the police.