What Is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter? 

 November 20, 2014

By  LMW Attorneys

Homicide is the act of one individual causing the death of another, but did you know that homicide in itself is not a crime? While it may be hard to believe, some homicides are actually legal. One of the examples of a “legal” homicide is when an individual fatally harms another while using self-defense or while defending another person. On the other hand, when a homicide in unlawful, it is either classified as murder or manslaughter.

What Is Murder?

In order for a homicide to be considered murder, it must meet two criteria. The homicide must be:

  • Unlawful. This means that it was not legally justified to kill the person.
  • Committed with malice aforethought. This means that it was committed with the intent of killing or harming another person out of spite or hate. It may also refer to a reckless disregard for human life.

There are two different degrees of murder that a person may be charged with.

First-Degree Murder:When an individual intentionally takes another person’s life unlawfully and with malice aforethought, they have committed first-degree murder. This act is premeditated and committed willfully. First-degree murder is one of the most serious charges.

Second-Degree Murder: This is also the act of taking someone else’s life intentionally with malice aforethought. The difference is it is not premeditated or planned.

What Is Manslaughter?

Unlike murder, manslaughter does not involve malice aforethought. It is still the unlawful killing of another person, however it was not committed willfully out of spite or hate. Therefore, the punishment for manslaughter is less severe. There are two different types of manslaughter that a person can be charged with.

Voluntary Manslaughter: This is known as the “heat of passion” crime. It occurs when a person is provoked in a way that could reasonably cause emotional or mental distress. That person then lashes out and fatally harms the person provoking them.

Involuntary Manslaughter: This occurs when an individual does something reckless and dangerous, resulting in another individual’s death. They had no intent of killing another person, but they acted in a way that was unreasonable and negligent.

For more legal advice, contact the Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins Attorneys at Law. We have over 40 years of experience defending criminal cases. Call LMW today for a free consultation.