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What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2015 | Violent Crimes |

If you’ve ever heard a legal discussion on homicide, in person or even on television, you may have heard terms such as murder and manslaughter. Those who are not experienced in legal terminology may be confused as to just what the difference is between the two, especially when you begin throwing in the different types and degrees of manslaughter and murder. This is especially relevant for people who have accidentally caused the death of another human.


Some people may think that murder involves any instance in which one person has killed another person, but this is not the case. In fact, that definition is more appropriate to homicide. Generally speaking, murder relates to any instance in which the killer intentionally killed the other person. However, depending on whether they planned the murder or committed the murder in the heat of the moment, it could alter the charges.

First-degree murder refers to a crime that was planned out before hand with the intention of killing. Second-degree murder is when the killer intentionally murdered the other person, but they were acting in the moment without much thought to what they were doing. For more information on different levels of homicide, you can read this article.

On the other hand, manslaughter refers to a homicide that is not quite as serious as murder. Of course, when you are adding a degree of subjectivity to something as serious as the death of another human, it becomes very important to present the circumstances of the incident correctly. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a death is accidental, resulting from criminally reckless behavior, such as fatally striking a pedestrian if you are driving drunk.

Voluntary manslaughter and second-degree murder can be very similar, but the consequences are quite different. This is another reason that it is very important to present your case clearly and correctly when dealing with a homicide. If you have accidentally committed a homicide, it is in your best interests to speak with an attorney. An attorney who is familiar with Florida law can help you prove that the death was accidental and ensure that you are not accused of something you did not do.

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