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What Is the Difference Between Manslaughter & Murder?

Many people have heard the terms, homicide, murder, and manslaughter, but may not know what differentiates one act from another. When an individual takes the life of another person it is legally known as a homicide. In itself, homicide is not automatically a crime as can be seen in cases of self-defense. However, when criminal or unlawful conduct results in acts of homicide, it can be classified as either manslaughter or murder. Below our blog explores the differences between these two categories of criminal homicide.

Homicide: Murder vs. Manslaughter

In order for a defendant to be charged with murder, the prosecution must show that a planned intent to kill existed and that the defendant acted maliciously. A homicide may also be considered a murder if the accused acted with an extreme recklessness and disregard for another person’s safety. In California, a murder charge is further divided and classified as either a first-degree or second-degree murder.

A first-degree murder charge is reserved for especially severe crimes that meet certain and specific circumstances. For example, a murder can be charged in the first-degree in cases including but not limited to, killings involving drive-by shootings, poisonings, bombs, and armor piercing ammunition. A first-degree murder charge can also result when the killing took place during another crime such as a robbery. If none of these circumstances are met, a prosecutor may pursue a charge of second-degree murder.

While manslaughter still involves the killing of another person, the distinction between itself and murder involves the state of mind of the accused. Again, California divides manslaughter into three categories: voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as a crime of passion in that the act of killing was not a premeditated malicious act. For example, if an argument occurs and escalates to the point of battery and a death occurs, it may be charged as voluntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter can result when the defendant had no intention at any point of engaging in the actions which led to a death. Vehicular manslaughter is as it sounds, associated with crimes committed by the use of a motor vehicle.

Different Crimes, Different Penalties

Another important distinction between these crimes is how they are punished. California charges each crime separately and the penalties a defendant may face can be influenced by factors including the severity of the crime, where the crime occurred, what type of weapons were involved, and any past criminal history. Typically involuntary manslaughter is charged the least severely and can be punishable by 4 years or less in prison. First-degree murder is the most severe crime and is punishable by 25 years to life in jail.

Accused of Criminal Homicide? Call (888) 744-3057

If you or someone you know has been accused of a violent crime such as murder or manslaughter, it is vital to seek experienced legal representation from The Maher Law Group, APC. Our lead Fairfield criminal defense attorney has been included in the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 and is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the California State Bar, an honor held by less than 1% of California lawyers. When your future is on the line, do not settle for a less qualified criminal defense firm.

Schedule a free case evaluation today and discover your legal options.

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