The Difference between Manslaughter & Murder

The Difference between Manslaughter & Murder

Criminal Defense Attorney

The Difference between Manslaughter & Murder

The terms manslaughter and murder are often used interchangeably as if they are the same; however, both constitute two different crimes. If you are charged with murder or manslaughter and want to fight the case, it is critical to learn about the difference between them. In addition, you should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to keep your legal rights protected and to prove your innocence to the prosecution.




By definition, murder can be referred to as an unlawful act of killing of a person with malice aforethought i.e. the individual gave consideration to killing, not that they meant to kill out of spite or animosity. That means that a person has premeditated the attack with an intent to kill. Moreover, if a person is anticipated to perpetrate serious bodily harm that leads to a victim’s death or if they behave in a manner that shows extreme, rash disregard for human life, it will also be constituted as a murder.


Though the act of murder itself is a horrendous act, however, not all murders are the same, thus they are often defined as a specific degree. First-Degree murder is when the killing is premeditated and deliberated. For instance, the killer was ambushing or hiding while waiting for the victim with an intention to kill.


Using dangerous equipment or items such as a bomb or an explosive device to kill a person or commissioning of a treacherous felony where death is foreseeable as likely can also give rise to a first-degree murder charge. However, when there is no contemplation or scheming involved, the murder charge tends to be for a second degree.




Manslaughter primarily differentiates from murder due to the absence of malice aforethought. Though it is deemed to be a lesser crime than murder, it is still considered a serious crime. Owing to this distinction, the punishment of manslaughter is comparatively much lesser than the punishment for murder. The keyword here is “comparatively”; the sentence for manslaughter is quite serious.


Manslaughter charges can be divided into two types: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when an individual is strongly provoked that aggravates them to kill someone under the heat of passion. The heat of passion is a state of mind prompted due to a provocation that clouds the ability of a reasonable individual to control or reflect on their actions.


For instance, if a husband comes home and find’s his wife committing adultery with another person and at that very moment, being enraged and infuriated, the husband decides to either kill the cheating spouse or the person whom she was cheating with. In such a scenario, it will be constituted as manslaughter as the murder occurred in a heat of passion.


The involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, occurs when an individual acts in a criminally reckless or negligent way that results in death of another individual. For example, a person is negligently driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes an accident leading to the death of a person.


How Can A Lawyer Help?


Whether you are charged with murder or manslaughter, having a competent criminal defense lawyer by your side is extremely important to ensure that you get justice. This is particularly important because you might already be worried about losing your freedom and future, thus unable to make sound decisions to protect yourself.


On the other hand, your criminal defense lawyer, using their vast knowledge and experience, will disprove the prosecution’s claims and be able to defend your rights. Moreover, they will issue subpoenas, gather evidence, and create a solid plan for your defense.


If you wish to know more about manslaughter and murder, contact Ettinger & Besbekos at (708) 923-0368 to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.