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What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

Though they sound similar and are occasionally used interchangeably, there are major differences between murder and manslaughter. Those differences can have a significant impact on your penalties including jail time, fines, probation, etc. If you are facing murder or manslaughter charges in California, contact a Tehama County violent crimes lawyer for legal representation.

What Are the Definitions of Murder and Manslaughter?

The definition of murder is the unlawful deliberate killing of a person. It is one of the most severe crimes that can be committed.

Manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another person and can be broken up into voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

The main difference between murder and manslaughter is intent. To be convicted of murder you must have intended to cause irreparable damage, but with manslaughter, you committed an illegal act that unintentionally resulted in someone else’s death. For example, if you drive a car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cause an accident where someone dies you have unintentionally ended their life due to your negligence.

What is Voluntary Manslaughter Versus Involuntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter can occur if a person is provoked and commits the killing because of the provocation. It is often referred to as a crime of passion. Many people do not understand the difference between voluntary manslaughter and murder because it sounds like they intended to kill. However, it is still considered manslaughter if they were not able to calm down between the time of being provoked and the murder. Sometimes after an intense emotional experience, our bodies take over before our minds can catch up.

Involuntary manslaughter results from a person being criminally negligent. Your negligent or reckless actions resulted in the killing of another person. If your involuntary manslaughter is deemed an extreme disregard for human life it could be charged as second-degree murder.

An example of each could be:

Voluntary: You come home after a long day of work and catch your significant other cheating on you. The sight of them together fills you with emotional turmoil and rage, and before you can realize what you are doing you kill your significant other’s partner.

Involuntary: You drink enough alcohol to the point of extreme intoxication and then get behind the wheel to drive yourself home. On the way you drift over to the other side of the road and crash into an oncoming car, killing the driver.

What Are the Degrees of Murder?

Depending on the circumstances of the murder, you may be charged with a variety of crimes. In California, there are generally two degrees of murder that can encompass second-degree, first-degree, capital, felony, and attempted murder. Each charge will be prosecuted with different penalties depending on the specifics of your case. California still has the death penalty but has not executed a prisoner in 18 years.