Homicide - Defined

A homicide is the killing of one human being by another, either lawfully or unlawfully.

An unlawful homicide is one committed without excuse or justification.

An excusable homicide is one committed by accident or misfortune, and without any culpable negligence or other criminal conduct.

A justifiable homicide is one committed in defense of self or others when necessary to prevent an unprovoked attack creating an imminent (ie: immediate) danger of death or great bodily injury.

An unlawful homicide is a very serious crime, divided into two types: murder, and manslaughter. The penalties for these crimes range from three years in prison to death.


The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office is committed to the vigorous prosecution of persons who kill.

While we recognize there are degrees of culpability in the law of homicide as there is in any category of crime, the result of every unlawful killing is the same: a human being inexcusably, unjustifiably, and forever lost their life.

Furthermore, the effects of such a death go way beyond the life lost, and reach very deeply into the hearts and souls of the loved ones left behind: these people are victims also.


Putting aside the legalities of remaining silent in the face of murder, the District Attorney's Office is firmly of the conviction that any person who has knowledge on the unlawful killing of another human being owes a moral duty, and an obligation to the society of mankind, to communicate that knowledge to a local law enforcement agency, or this office, so that justice may be served.

  1. Derek Butts

    Deputy District Attorney