Manslaughter and murder are two of the most serious crimes that a person can be charged with. Both offenses carry stiff penalties, but there is a big difference between the two.
In this blog post, we will discuss what manslaughter is, what murder is, and the key differences between the two offenses. We will also provide some real-world examples to help illustrate these concepts.
What is Manslaughter?
Manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of another person without malice aforethought. This means that the person did not intend to kill the other person, and there was no premeditation involved. Manslaughter can be either voluntary or involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person kills another person in the heat of the moment. This type of killing is often referred to as a crime of passion.
An example of voluntary manslaughter would be if a husband came home and found his wife in bed with another man. In the heat of the moment, he killed her. Because he did not plan to kill her ahead of time, he would likely be charged with voluntary manslaughter instead of murder.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person unintentionally kills another person while committing a non-felony crime.
For example, if someone is driving recklessly and hits and kills pedestrian, they could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. If someone is robbing a store and accidentally kills a customer, they could also be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
What is Murder?
Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought. This means that the person intended to kill the other person, and there was premeditation involved. There are two types of murder: first-degree murder and second-degree murder.
First-degree murder is the most serious type of murder charge. It is typically reserved for cases where the killing was premeditated and carried out in a cold, calculated manner.
An example of first-degree murder would be if someone planned to kill their spouse for insurance money. They might hire a hitman to carry out the killing, or they might do it themselves.
Second-degree murder is less serious than first-degree murder, but it is still a very serious offense. It is typically charged in cases where the killing was not premeditated, but there was still an intent to kill.
An example of second-degree murder would be if someone got into a fistfight with someone else and ended up killing them. The person did not plan to kill the other person, but they intended to do serious harm.
Penalties for Manslaughter vs. Murder
The penalties for manslaughter and murder vary from state to state, but both offenses are punishable by imprisonment. In some states, voluntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, while involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
First-degree murder is typically punishable by life in prison or the death penalty, while second-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
What Determines Murder or Manslaughter?
Manslaughter is a serious offense, but it is not as serious as murder. The penalties for manslaughter are less severe than the penalties for murder, and it is typically charged in cases where the killing was not premeditated.
The key difference between murder and manslaughter is intent. If the person intended to kill the other person, they will be charged with murder. If the person did not intend to kill the other person, they will be charged with manslaughter.
The other key difference is premeditation. If the person planned to kill the other person ahead of time, they will be charged with first-degree murder. If there was no planning involved, they will be charged with second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.
State of mind is key in differentiating between murder and manslaughter. If the accused can show that they did not have the intent to kill, or that they were acting in self-defense, then they may be able to have the charges reduced to manslaughter. For example, if someone is charged with first-degree murder but they can prove that they acted in self-defense, they may be able to get the charges reduced to voluntary manslaughter.
In order for someone to be convicted of first-degree murder, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had the intent to kill and that there was premeditation involved. If the prosecution cannot prove either of these things, then the charges will be reduced to second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Attempted murder is defined as an unlawful killing that would be murder, but the victim survives. It is important to note that attempted murder requires proof of an actual intent to kill. This can be difficult to prove in some cases. For example, if someone points a gun at another person and pulls the trigger but the gun misfires, they can still be charged with attempted murder even though no one was actually killed.
In most jurisdictions, attempted murder is punished almost as severely as successful murder. The logic behind this is that someone who attempts to kill another person is just as dangerous as someone who succeeds in doing so. After all, if the gun had not jammed, the victim would have been killed.
Sentencing for attempted murder can vary depending on the circumstances of the crime. For example, if the victim was a child or pregnant woman, the offender may receive a longer sentence. Similarly, if the offender used a weapon such as a bomb or poison, they may also receive a longer sentence. In some cases, offenders may be sentenced to life in prison even if the victim survived.
Conspiracy to commit murder
Conspiracy to commit murder is also a serious crime. This is when two or more people agree to kill someone else. It does not matter if they actually carry out the killing or not. Just the act of agreeing to commit murder is enough to be charged with this crime.
Like attempted murder, sentencing for conspiracy to commit murder can vary depending on the circumstances. For example, if the plot was hatched online, the offenders may receive a lighter sentence than if they met in person to discuss their plans.
Case Examples of Murder and Manslaughter
A woman hires a hitman to kill her husband. She gives him money and tells him when and where to kill her husband. The hitman carries out the killing as planned. The woman would be charged with first-degree murder.
A man gets into a fight with another man at a bar. He punches the other man and he falls to the ground, hitting his head on a table. He dies from his injuries. The man would be charged with second-degree murder.
A woman catches her husband cheating on her with another woman. In the heat of the moment, she kills him. She would be charged with voluntary manslaughter.
A man is driving recklessly and he hits and kills a pedestrian. He would be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Case Law on Murder vs. Manslaughter
R v Tooker
In R v Tooker, the distinction between murder and manslaughter was summarized as follows:
“Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought can be either express or implied. Express malice is hatred, spite or ill will towards the victim. Implied malice is when the killer shows a wanton disregard for human life.”
R v Jordan
In R v Jordan, Chief Justice Lamer stated: “The difference between murder and manslaughter lies in the presence or absence of intent to kill”. He went on to say that: “the mental element required for murder is an intention to cause death or serious bodily harm”. In other words, if you don’t intend to kill someone, your crime can only be manslaughter, not murder.
R v Smithers
In R v Smithers, the Supreme Court of Canada held that: “The intent to kill is an essential element of the offence of murder. The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had this intention at the time he or she committed the killing.”
Defenses to Murder Charges When Charged With Murder or Manslaughter
There are a few defenses that can be used to defend against murder charges. These include self-defense, insanity, accident and provocation.
Self-defense is when a person uses force to protect themselves from harm. In order to use this defense, the accused must prove that they reasonably believed they were in danger of being killed or seriously injured. They must also show that they used a reasonable amount of force to defend themselves.
For example, if someone is attacked with a knife, it would be reasonable for them to defend themselves with a gun. However, if the attacker was unarmed, it would not be reasonable for the person being attacked to use a gun in self-defense.
Self-defense can be a difficult defense to prove. It is often up to the judge or jury to decide whether or not the accused reasonably believed they were in danger.
Defense of Others
The defense of others is when the accused kills someone to protect another person. To use this defense, the accused must show that they reasonably believed the other person was in danger of being killed or seriously injured. They must also show that they used a reasonable amount of force to defend the other person.
For example, if someone sees their friend being attacked by a group of people, they could use the defense of others to justify killing one of the attackers.
Defense of Property
The defense of property is when the accused uses force to protect their property from being damaged or stolen. To use this defense, the accused must show that they reasonably believed their property was in danger and that they used a reasonable amount of force to protect it.
For example, if someone catches a burglar in their home, they could use the defense of property to justify using force against the burglar.
Insanity is another defense that can be used in murder cases. This defense is based on the idea that the accused did not understand that what they were doing was wrong.
To use this defense, the accused must prove that they suffer from a mental illness that prevented them from understanding that their actions were wrong. For example, if someone with schizophrenia killed someone because they thought the victim was a demon, they could use insanity as a defense.
Accident is another possible defense against murder charges. To use this defense, the accused must show that they did not mean to kill the victim. For example, if someone was playing with a gun and it accidentally went off and killed someone, they could use accident as a defense.
Provocation is when the victim does something that makes the accused so angry that they lose control and kill them. To use this defense, the accused must show that the victim provoked them and that they did not intend to kill the victim.
For example, if someone was arguing with their spouse and the spouse slapped them, the person could argue that they were provoked into killing their spouse. However, if they went to their spouse’s workplace and shot them in front of other people, it would be harder to argue that they were provoked.
Infancy is a defense that can be used if the accused is under the age of seven. This defense is based on the idea that young children cannot understand that their actions are wrong.
To use this defense, the accused must prove that they were under the age of seven at the time of the crime.
Mistaken identity is a defense that can be used if the accused was misidentified as the perpetrator. To use this defense, the accused must show that there is a reasonable possibility that they were misidentified.
For example, if the only evidence against the accused is witness testimony, and there are several people who could have committed the crime, the accused could argue that they were misidentified.
Battered Woman Syndrome
Battered woman syndrome is a defense that can be used by women who have killed their abusive partners. This defense is based on the idea that these women have been subjected to so much abuse that they reasonably believe they are in danger of being killed.
To use this defense, the accused must prove that they were in an abusive relationship and that they reasonably believed they were in danger of being killed.
Necessity is when the accused commits a crime to prevent a greater harm from happening. To use this defense, the accused must show that they reasonably believed there was a danger of serious bodily harm or death and that their actions were necessary to prevent this harm from happening.
For example, if someone is being chased by an attacker and they kill the attacker, they could use necessity to justify their actions.
Exercise of Duty
The exercise of duty is a defense that can be used by police officers and other public servants. To use this defense, the accused must show that they were acting in their official capacity and that they reasonably believed their actions were necessary to perform their duties.
For example, if a police officer reasonably believes that someone is about to commit a crime, they could use the exercise of duty to justify using force against the person.
Why you Need a Lawyer
If you have been charged with murder, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights. They can also investigate the facts of your case and build a strong defense. If you are facing a murder charge, do not try to defend yourself without a lawyer.
Trying to defend yourself against a murder charge is never a good idea. The consequences of a conviction are too severe. You could be sentenced to life in prison or even the death penalty. If you are facing a murder charge, contact a lawyer immediately. Do not try to defend yourself without one.