justifiable homicide

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The taking of a human life under circumstances of justification, as a matter of right, such as self-defense, or other causes set out in statute. For example, in Virginia, a justifiable homicide in self-defense occurs where a person, without any fault on his part in provoking or bringing on the difficulty, kills another under reasonable apprehension of death or great bodily harm to himself. Justifiable homicides also include killings permitted by law, such as an execution for a capital crime. A justifiable homicide absolves the actor of any criminal liability. Justifiable homicides are not the same as homicides committed under the heat of passion or with diminished capacity, which may be considered mitigating circumstances that reduce the actor’s culpability with regards to a killing.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]