Have you ever watched the news and wondered why one defendant receives a life sentence for murder and the other gets probation for manslaughter? The differences between manslaughter vs murder can be a little confusing, and sometimes the only difference is a good murder lawyer.

Let’s take a closer look at manslaughter and murder, and the differences between them.


What Is Manslaughter

The main difference between manslaughter and murder exists in the term “malice aforethought”. Manslaughter refers to a homicide that occurred in the absence of malice aforethought. This means that there was no intent to seriously harm or kill the victim, or that the victim didn’t die at the hands of extreme, reckless disregard for life on the part of the accused.

Manslaughter suggests that there is less moral blame than murder, and while it is viewed as a serious crime the punishment is usually less than murder. Manslaughter is categorized as either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is applied to a ‘heat of the moment’ killing. There is no premeditation and rarely an intent to kill, but the circumstances of the moment -such as a wife walking in on her husband cheating- cause extreme provocation.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter refers to when a person’s death is caused by an act of criminal negligence or recklessness such as running a red light and killing someone as a result.

What Is Murder

Murder is defined as a homicide that was committed with “malice aforethought.” This means that there was an intent to kill or cause serious harm, or that whatever conduct that resulted in the homicide was so reckless it could be seen as a conscious disregard for human life.

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder refers to a premeditated killing. This means that the accused willfully went out of their way to kill the victim. It can also refer to an unintentional killing that occurs while the accused is committing another serious felony.

Second-Degree Murder

Second-degree murder is when a killing occurs, and while the accused intended to kill the victim, there was no premeditation. It can also occur when there is no intent to kill, but only to inflict serious bodily harm, should the victim die as a result.

Second Degree Murder and Voluntary Manslaughter

You might have noticed what seems like a grey area between second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. The difference comes down to intention. With second degree murder, the accused intended to kill or cause serious bodily harm to the victim. With voluntary manslaughter, the accused killed as a result of being provoked and under the ‘heat of passion’ with no cooling off period between being provoked and carrying out the felony.

The differences are subtle, but the sentences can be very different. If you’re accused of second-degree murder, it’s important to have a good murder lawyer to ensure you’re tried for the actual crime.

Manslaughter vs Murder: Know the Differences

When it comes to manslaughter vs murder, as a general rule it all comes down to intent. Murder is the conscious decision to take someone’s life or to partake in something that is illegal and kill someone in the process. Manslaughter is a reaction killing without intention or an act of negligence that results in the death of another.

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