Differences Between Manslaughter and Murder

When dealing with the difference between “manslaughter” and “murder” it depends on the state of mind of the killer as well as the various degrees relating to murder.

Definition of Murder

In Canada murder is defined as killing somebody with “malice aforethought,” which is malice. The two types of malice is “express malice” and “implied malice.” Express malice is when a person intended to kill another person or persons. Implied malice is when a person intentionally commits an act they knew was dangerous to other people and human life resulting in death. In other words, the murder was committed with a conscious disregard for human life.

If a crime involves expressed or implied malice its defined as “murder.” Murder is further classified into first degree and second degree. First degree murder is one that is willfully and deliberately committed with premeditation, meaning the person willfully decided to kill the other person. A second degree murder is when a person intentionally meant to kill another person but it was not planned or premeditated, such as in a “heat of passion” or the killing was the result of a person’s dangerous conduct involving a conscious disregard for human life.

Definition of Manslaughter

Manslaughter is also the unlawful killing of another person or persons, but without any malice but still involves a “conscious disregard for human life.” Manslaughter can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is when the act of murder is committed in either the heat of passion or in the defense of yourself or others. Involuntary manslaughter is when a killing is unintentional and the result of recklessness or criminal negligence, such as an unlawful misdemeanor act or low-level felony such as a DUI.

Manslaughter is typically treated as a much less severe crime than murder.  Manslaughter can be broken up into degrees, or categorized as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is the killing of another person under extreme provocation or while under the heat of passion.  Typically, it does not require an intent to kill, but rather than the intent to do something else.  Felony manslaughter occurs when a person participates in a crime that isn’t listed in the felony murder statute (which usually includes the most dangerous kinds of felonies), but somehow someone dies during the crime.  Involuntary manslaughter usually involves acts of negligence or recklessness that lead to another person’s death.  Vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter – causing a person’s death through driving while intoxicated – can be charged on its own or as part of involuntary manslaughter, depending on the laws of a particular state. 

A “heat of passion” is defined as a killing resulting from a person being provoked, a rash act from intense emotion from being provoked, or the person was provoke in such a way that an average person would normally act rashly.

Basically, a jury must decide the person was provoked to the point where he was acting under intense emotion instead of pre-meditated anger.

If you have been arrested and accused of murder or manslaughter you need the expert advice of a criminal defense attorney.

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