The terms “murder” and “manslaughter” get thrown around almost interchangeably — but they’re far from the same thing, legally.
If you’ve been charged with either murder or manslaughter, knowing what distinguishes the two is key to building a defense strategy in your case.
What are the primary differences between murder and manslaughter?
Both of these crimes involve the unnatural death, or homicide, of another person. Prosecutors may file murder charges against a defendant when there’s evidence of premeditation or when the victim dies while another serious crime is occurring, such as kidnapping or robbery. The victim’s special status, such as whether they are elderly, disabled or a public official may also lead to a murder charge.
On the flip side of the coin, prosecutors are most apt to charge a defendant with manslaughter if a person’s death is largely accidental, such as a drunk driving crash. Prosecutors may do the same following a “heat of the moment” killing, like an argument that spirals out of hand.
Whether a prosecutor charges a defendant with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charges depends on the nature of the offense and the jurisdiction. Each crime carries with it different penalties. Legal analysts often use the terminology involuntary manslaughter interchangeably with criminally negligent homicide.
Manslaughter and murder are both serious criminal charges
Murder and manslaughter are both serious crimes, and you will face stiff penalties if you are convicted. You owe it to yourself to put up a strong defense in your case. Talking with an experienced defense attorney — before you talk to the police — is the wisest move you can make and the right step in your own defense.