A lot of people hear the terms “manslaughter” and “murder” and while they know they’re different, they don’t quite grasp how. Essentially, the difference comes down to intention although in practice this isn’t always the case. If you have been, or believe you may be, accused of either murder or manslaughter, it’s critical you call a defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Differences Between Murder and Manslaughter
The taking of another person’s life is a serious offense in any situation, but if the death was not intentional, the charges will not be as grave as those involving the purposeful attempt to take someone’s life. If someone has been purposefully killed, the person responsible will usually be charged with murder, whether or not the attack was planned before hand. Alternatively, if the death was accidental, even if it was caused by a situation that easily could have been prevented, the person responsible will most often be charged with manslaughter. If an accidental death involved a vehicle of some kind, then the resulting charge will generally be vehicular manslaughter.
There is also a huge difference in sentences. Murder, whether first or second degree, carries a potential life term, meaning you only get released after the parole board determines you are rehabilitated and safe to release. You are required to serve 85% of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Manslaughter has a determinate prison term although the specific number of years may vary widely based on prior strikes and whether a firearm was used.
In some cases, if you intentionally kill someone, but it is in the heat of passion, your lawyer may be able to argue for voluntary manslaughter. If the death was accidental but you were negligent, the crime may be involuntary manslaughter.
You Can Fight Homicide Charges
Defending on the specifics of the case, there are many good ways to fight homicide charges. One of the best defenses is self defense or defense of others, but even if you were not in danger, but you believed you were, you can claim “imperfect self defense” which can result in a murder charged being decreased to a voluntary manslaughter charge.
You can also challenge the evidence itself. Witness testimony is notoriously inaccurate. Forensic sciences are surprising unreliable, particularly blood splatter analysis. Even if there is DNA evidence tying you to the scene, there are ways to challenge this with the help of a top lawyer.
Whatever the specifics of your case, if you have been charged with any of these crimes, it is critical to remember that anything you say can be used against you and there is often a fine line between murder and a manslaughter charges. A skilled attorney can help protect your rights and may even be able to have murder charges reduced to manslaughter.
If you have been accused of murder, manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter, please call attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Creative Commons Image by Benjamin A. Smith