When someone takes another person’s life, they may be accused of either murder or manslaughter. People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that these charges are relatively the same, but there are actually significant differences.
If you are facing charges related to someone’s death, it’s important to know exactly what they’re for and how they’ve been categorized, as that can help you determine your defense options.
The role of intent
The big difference between manslaughter and murder is simply intent. It may not change the specifics of what happened, but it sheds light on why it happened.
In order to be charged with first-degree murder, intent has to be shown. Your actions had to purposely move toward ending the other person’s life. If intent cannot be demonstrated, even if it is shown that you took action that led to the death, you cannot be convicted on a murder charge.
Instead, the charge may change to manslaughter, which essentially alleges that your negligence led to the death. You didn’t mean to cause the person to die, but you made some sort of a mistake or acted in a reckless manner, and your actions had that result. You were still responsible, but that doesn’t mean you wanted that outcome.
This distinction is very important if you’re heading to court because your defense options may include showing that, while you may have been involved, you don’t deserve the most serious charge. This could lead to a far lighter sentence than you would have received otherwise. Be sure you know exactly what steps to take.