Criminal Homicide | Classification

According to Washington code, there is also a specific type of homicide – homicide by abuse. The defendant is guilty of homicide by abuse if he or she “causes the death of a child or person under sixteen years of age, a developmentally disabled person, or a dependent adult, and the person has previously engaged in a pattern or practice of assault or torture of said child, person under sixteen years of age, developmentally disabled person, or dependent person” (Chapter 9A.32 RCW, 2011) under circumstances showing indifference to human life. This crime is associated with the situations when provision of basic life necessities depended on the defendant.

Finally, there are two degrees for manslaughter: manslaughter in the first degree is associated with reckless killing of the other person or intentional and unlawful killing of an unborn child by injuring the mother of the child, and manslaughter in the second degree is associated with causing the death of another person by criminal negligence (Reid, 2007).

First and second degree murders, homicide by abuse and manslaughter in the first degree are classified as class A felonies, and manslaughter in the second degree is classified as Class B felony (Chapter 9A.32 RCW, 2011). All individuals convicted of the first degree crimes are sentenced to life imprisonment.

The statutes of Washington criminal code related to homicide are quite comprehensive, and all the crimes except manslaughter in the second degree are associated with the highest felony class, which is absolutely fair. There were two things which surprised me: the third condition which might be used to classify homicide as first-degree murder (the involvement of the criminal in other serious crimes) and the classification of killing of an unborn child as a manslaughter in the first degree. This classification is absolutely fair, in my opinion, and the reason of particular interest to these classifications was the expanded consideration of associated circumstances, included in the criminal code.

In my opinion, there is no justifiable and excusable homicide, since the value of human life should be put above all in any circumstances, but there might indeed exist the extenuating circumstances such as self-defense and unpremeditated homicide. It is fair to consider each situation in particular and analyze the details of it (e.g. extreme indifference to human life, or the inability of the dependent person to protect oneself). Thus, I believe that the classification of homicide and associated classes of felony are fair, and reflect the necessary measure of justice for these crimes.


Chapter 9A.32 RCW. Homicide. (2011). Available from

Cole, G.F. & Smith, C.E. (2007). Criminal Justice in America. Cengage Learning.

Reid, S.T. (2007). Criminal Law. Roxbury Pub. Co.