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Murder vs Manslaughter: The Difference

02 June 2017

Homicide is the act of killing a human being by another human being. Homicide can be both legal and illegal. Examples of incidents where homicide can be considered lawful are the justifiable killing of a suspect by law enforcement, or the killing of another because of self-defense. Homicides that are illegal are further classified into two categories: murder and manslaughter. As part of our dedication to you, we want to explain the difference.

Definition of Murder

Murder, as defined by common law, is the intentional killing of another human being that cannot be legally justified, and is committed with malice. Malice aforethought is said to exist when:

  • there was an intention to kill another human being without legal excuse;
  • there was an intention to inflict serious harm to another human being, which resulted to the death of the victim, and;
  • the killer displayed reckless disregard to life that resulted in the death of the victim.

Murder is further divided into two: first degree murder and second degree murder.

The rules that dictate what may be considered as first degree murder differ from state to state. However, here are some of the common basis:

  1. The crime was deliberately done and was done with premeditation.

There was an intent to kill, and the criminal willfully decided to kill the victim.

  1. Death occurred as a result of a dangerous felony.

A felon can be guilty of murder if someone was killed due to his act of felony. An example is an arsonist who sets a building on fire. The arsonist would be guilty of felony murder if someone died as a foreseeable result of his actions.

  1. The killer used an explosive device.

Murders that do not fall under first degree murder are considered as second-degree murder. First degree murderers are considered more dangerous and blameworthy.

Definition of Manslaughter

Manslaughter refers to unlawful killing of a human being by another human being, but without malice. No intent to harm or kill is present, and there was no reckless disregard for human life. There is less moral blame in a manslaughter case than with a murder, and punishment is usually less than that for murder.

Manslaughter is further classified into two: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

  • Voluntary manslaughter

It is more commonly referred to as heat of passion crime. It occurs when a person is provoked and the person kills in the heat of passion due to the provocation.

Here, there must have been no time for the person to think reasonably. It is the intense emotional context of the crime that reduces the blame on the killer. Voluntary manslaughter can also be a crime that resulted due to self defense.

  • Involuntary manslaughter

It is the unintentional killing of another human being, due to reckless conduct and negligence. The absence of the intent to kill creates the blurred lines between second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, making it difficult to differentiate the two.

Seek an Expert Lawyer for your Homicide Case

If you have been charged manslaughter or murder, or your family or relative has been a victim of homicide, seek legal help from an experienced and reputable lawyer. Distinguishing between the two and proving which is best applicable to your case may not be easy, but your lawyer will help you every step of the way.

Seek legal counsel immediately. Call Piotrowski Law today to schedule a consultation.

Chad Piotrowski - post author

Chad Piotrowski is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida. He is a former Miami-Dade Prosecutor and has practiced criminal law, exclusively, for more than 10 years.

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