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
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.