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Murder vs. manslaughter: what is the difference?

On Behalf of | Oct 30, 2022 | Violent crimes

If you are accused of causing another person’s death, you will be charged with some form of homicide. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you will face murder or manslaughter charges. 

While some people use these terms interchangeably, they never quite mean the same thing, legally speaking. Knowing the difference between murder and manslaughter, as well as the potential penalties, is crucial for your defense.

Understanding murder charges

This is a form of homicide in which the defendant intentionally kills another person without a valid legal justification. This means that there has to be some sort of malicious intent for an individual to be charged with murder. While this term may sound all-encompassing, the severity of the resulting punishment depends on the degree of the murder. Under Maryland law, you can be charged with the following types of murders:

  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Felony murder

Understanding manslaughter charges

Just like murder, manslaughter refers to the unlawful killing of another person. However, manslaughter does not involve malice and aforethought. This means that there must be no intention to kill or seriously harm the other party. The absence of malice makes manslaughter penalties less severe in comparison to the penalties for murder. 

Voluntary manslaughter, also known as “heat of passion” crime happens when the suspect is severely provoked thus resorting to inflicting fatal injuries on the victim. An example would be a situation where an individual returns home to find their partner in bed with another person.

Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, refers to the unintentional killing of another person mainly due to reckless or negligent conduct. An unintentional killing while committing a crime other than a felony can also be treated as involuntary murder. An example of this would be a situation where a drunk driver runs over a pedestrian at the crosswalk. 

Being charged with a violent crime is a big deal. Knowing your legal options can help you defend yourself and protect your rights when charged with murder or manslaughter.