Murder and manslaughter are two types of criminal homicide, an offense in which one person takes the life of another.
These are two of the most serious charges in the criminal justice system, and while they may sound similar, there are important distinctions between the two.
According to Daily Bio News, murder is an intentional act to take the life of someone else. “Malice aforethought” is the term used to describe the intention to cause harm to someone else.
The different degrees of murder describe the seriousness of the act and the nature of the intention behind it. Third-degree murder occurs when someone means to cause harm to someone else and the harm results in loss of life. Second-degree murder occurs when an individual intends to kill someone else but did not plan it out beforehand. First-degree murder occurs when a person plans ahead of time to commit an act that ends someone else’s life.
Manslaughter occurs when someone’s actions cause a loss of life but the intention was not to kill. There are two types of manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone behaves in a way that is reckless and unlawful but does not rise to the level of a felony and someone else dies as a result. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone acts in the “heat of passion” in response to a serious provocation of some kind. The provocation must be more than mere words.
Because it does not involve malice aforethought, manslaughter is a less serious charge than murder. Nevertheless, depending on the circumstances, the penalties for manslaughter can be severe.