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The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

An Explanation of California’s Homicide Charges

Causing the death of another person is a serious offense that can be charged as one of two types of homicide. While the outcome is the same in both manslaughter and murder, there are distinctions in how the crimes are committed, and, as a result, how they are punished.

What Is Manslaughter?

An individual is guilty of manslaughter when they unintentionally kill another person. While the offender lacks any premeditation or explicit intent, their actions still effectively ended another human’s life.

Manslaughter is further categorized as voluntary and involuntary. It’s important to recognize that, while manslaughter lacks malicious intent, it can still be committed willingly. Such is the case for voluntary manslaughter.

Generally, voluntary manslaughter includes an act that someone commits after a strong provocation. For example, if a man finds his spouse cheating on him and kills the lover without thinking, it could be argued that the act qualifies as voluntary manslaughter rather than murder. This is because, while done willingly, it lacks premeditation.

Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is caused by one’s negligence. It could include offenses such as reckless driving, where the individual did not intend to kill others, but still operated their vehicle with a disregard for the safety of others on the road. When the reckless offense causes another’s death, the offender will be held accountable through a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

What Is Murder?

Murder is unique from manslaughter as it requires malicious intent to end the victim’s life. As it is a purposeful act, it garners harsher penalties. It can be charged in the first or second degree depending on the details of the offense.

California defines first-degree murder as the planned, malicious, and intentional killing of another. Some other offenses could be heightened to a first-degree murder charge if a death occurs:

  • During another felony, such as rape
  • Immediately after torturing the victim
  • Through the use of explosives, poisons, or armor-piercing ammunition

Second-degree murder accounts for intentional killings that do not meet the criteria of murder in the first degree.

If you’ve been arrested for homicide, it’s imperative that you recruit aggressive legal defense immediately. Contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC to discuss your murder or manslaughter allegations.