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What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

On Behalf of | May 5, 2022 | Murder/Homicide

The crime of killing another human being, also known as homicide, is one of the most serious crimes you can ever be accused of committing. Given the seriousness of the offense, it goes without saying that the penalties if convicted are equally severe. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a conviction may result in life in prison or a death sentence.

If you are charged with homicide, it is in your best interest that you figure out how to defend yourself. And part of your defense involves understanding the difference between murder and manslaughter. Understanding the difference between these two terms can help you come up with an effective defense strategy.

Understanding murder

Murder is generally defined as an unlawful yet malicious or meditated killing of another person. Murder can be premeditated and intentional. However, this is not always the case. For instance, an individual can be charged with murder if their intentional and dangerous acts result in the death of another person. In other words, an act that results in death does not have to be planned to attract a murder charge.

A defendant can be charged with first-degree or second-degree murder. First-degree murder happens when the act is both pre-planned and intentional. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, involves malicious aforethought, but with no premeditation. An example of second-degree murder would be killing someone during a fight.

Understanding manslaughter

Manslaughter refers to taking another person’s life with neither malice nor prior meditation. However, manslaughter can either be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter happens when an individual willfully kills another without prior meditation. An example would be a spouse who returns home to find their partner in bed with someone else. In this case, the suspect may plead voluntary manslaughter on grounds of provocation and loss of emotional control. Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, refers to the unintentional and unpremeditated killing of another person. An example would be causing death through reckless driving.

Facing a murder charge is a big deal. Find out how you can defend yourself and safeguard your rights if you are accused of killing someone.