Identifying the Differences Between Manslaughter and Murder

Jan 25, 2019 | News

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What is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder?


There are several different designations of murder and manslaughter, which vary greatly in the degree of the penalty associated. While there are also civil and criminal classifications and penalties, the following information considers felony charges only. When charges are filed, factors such as premeditation and whether the death was an accident are considered. Learn more about the classifications and the difference between manslaughter vs murder.


Involuntary Manslaughter


Sometimes called criminally negligent homicide, involuntary manslaughter is typically a result of negligence or accident. If there was no intent to cause the death of another person, this is the way that it may be classified when charges are filed. For example, deaths caused by a car crash because of a DUI may fall under this category. While the drunk driver may have been acting stupidly or recklessly by driving under the influence, they did not intend to kill anyone by their actions.


Voluntary Manslaughter


Voluntary manslaughter is a homicide that occurs without pre-meditation but was intended. Often labeled as crimes of passion, voluntary manslaughter can be triggered by rage, jealousy, or other emotional action. For example, a person killed in a bar fight by provoking someone may be labeled voluntary manslaughter. However, if a person has malice for the person before the incident occurred, it may be prosecuted at the next level – second-degree murder.


Second-Degree Murder


Second-degree murder is not premeditated but requires a killing by dangerous conduct or genuine lack for human life. While crimes of passion are prosecuted as voluntary manslaughter, second-degree murder varies by locality but generally has some of the same characteristics. Typically, there must be a desire to commit bodily harm to the deceased and for most places; intent to harm the individual must be proven in the proceedings. In California, there are also special designations and penalties for the second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, by using a firearm from a vehicle, and for those previously convicted of murder.


First-Degree Murder


First-degree murder is considered the most severe crime and requires pre-meditation or purposefully taking action that is deliberate to killing another. For many convictions, the penalty is life in prison or the death penalty in states where it’s legal. For those who commit multiple or particularly cruel murders, they will likely face first-degree murder charges. In California, hate crimes and murders with special circumstances are prosecuted more harshly. More than a dozen special circumstances are outlined for first-degree murder charges, like torture, poison, gang killing, prior murder convictions and more.


Consulting Trusted Counsel


If you’re facing manslaughter or murder charges of any kind, it’s important to consult an attorney immediately. Having an attorney with experience defending those charged with felonies is essential for a favorable outcome. If you or someone you know is seeking a defense attorney, consider Griffin Law Office. The firm has defended in more than 1,000 cases, including crimes of violence, and is among the top-ranked in San Diego. Trust your case to an expert criminal defense lawyer with the personal care and attention to detail needed to win a case.

Contact our San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to book a free consultation if you have any questions about crimes of passion or felonies.