Before the eyes of the criminal justice system, not all homicides are equal. In fact, there are multiple varying degrees of homicide and two distinct categories: murder and manslaughter. While most people may be aware of these two terms, the actual differences between them likely remain unclear.
Malice Behind Murder
The act of murder is defined by taking a human life with clear malice, premeditation, motive, or intent. It is not an accident and it is not spurred on by uncontrolled emotions. In some courts, to land a murder conviction, the prosecution must also show that the defendant had “no regard for human life” at the time of the killing. The premise and execution of a murder are clearly defined through the evidence. When most people imagine homicide, or when homicide is depicted in the media and movies, they are referencing murder.
Manslaughter is Clouded, At Best
Manslaughter charges can be brought up when the actions, decisions, and behaviors that led to a killing are unclear. Without any definitive motive for taking another human life, someone accused of manslaughter may be able to defend themselves by saying the consequence was unintended and involuntary. Manslaughter can also be applied to cases where a deliberate action caused an undeliberate death, such as speeding down the road in a street race and crashing into a pedestrian, fatally wounding them.
Sometimes manslaughter is actually completely voluntary. When someone attacks another while they are incited and emotionally charged, they can be charged with voluntary manslaughter, often labeled a crime of passion. Instead of clouded motives, such a manslaughter charge will involve clouded judgement.
This leads up to one of the simplest ways to define manslaughter separately from murder, a task that is complicated and intricate in and of itself: details in a manslaughter can easily be questioned, whereas a murder case seems to have obvious factors. For more information about the differences between the two charges, or if you have been accused of one or the other, contact Rasor Law Firm and our Royal Oak criminal defense attorneys today. We can get you pointed in the right direction during an initial consultation.