We’ve all heard the terms ‘homicide’, ‘murder’, and ‘manslaughter’, but do you understand what they each mean and how they differ from one another? In general, homicide is a legal term for any killing of a human being by another human being. It is important to note that homicide does not always mean a crime was committed, as some types of homicide are legal, such as killing of a suspect by the police or killing in self-defense. However, all unlawful homicides are usually classified as either murder or manslaughter. These two terms are oftentimes mixed up and misused, which is why we are going to take the time today to explain how to the two differ from one another. There are numerous subtle distinctions between murder and manslaughter, and the jury’s decision to charge someone with one or the other may depend less on legal rules, but instead on how morally responsible any given defendant is. At Atkins & Markoff, our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys have represented people throughout Oklahoma on these types of cases. If you have been charged with either murder or manslaughter, or would like to learn more about the differences between the two, please do not hesitate to contact us today.
Understanding Manslaughter Charges
Manslaughter differs from murder in that is an unlawful killing that did not involve premeditation, malice, or the intent to harm, kill, or cause serious injury to another person. Because of the absence of malice, manslaughter oftentimes involves less moral blame than murder. This means that, while still a serious crime, the punishment for manslaughter is not as severe as that of murder.
In most states, manslaughter is either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is commonly referred to as a “heat of passion” crime and occurs when the following takes place:
- The defendant is strongly provoked and
- Kills in the heat of passion after being provoked
On the other hand, involuntary manslaughter typically refers to unintentional homicide that occurs because an individual is criminally negligent or reckless. In some cases, involuntary manslaughter can take place when an unintentional killing takes place through admission of a crime other than a felony charge.
Understanding Murder Charges
It is important to note that murder is the most severe homicide crime. Different states divide murder into varying degrees, such as first and second degree murder, which are explained as follows:
- First-Degree Murder – This is the most serious of all homicide charges and is used when a person accused of the homicide premeditated the murder and intended for another person to die because of his or her actions. In some states, the punishment for these types of crimes may include the death penalty or life in prison.
- Second-Degree Murder – This charge is reserved for cases where the prosecution is unable to prove that the killer planned the murder ahead of time, but where the killer still intended for the victim to die because of his or her actions. In many cases, second-degree murder crimes are considered ‘crimes of passion’ or took place in the ‘heat of passion’.
If you have any questions about homicide, manslaughter, or the varying types of murder, please contact Atkins & Markoff today. Our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys will go over your particular case with you, ensuring that you understand the charges against you and your rights moving forward.