The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

It’s All Homicide: The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

For our first blog, let’s delve right into homicide and the difference between murder and manslaughter. For starters, homicide, in the simplest of non-legal terms, is the killing of one person by another. The word is Latin in origin. When we break the word down to its Latin roots, homo means “man,” and cide, from cida, means “killing.”  As a legal term, homicide is more of an overarching term which encompasses the other specific charges of murder and manslaughter.

These charges are both intentional and unintentional in nature, and it is this intent that makes up a lot of the difference between murder and manslaughter.

So, It’s All Homicide?

Yes, to make it easy, picture the charge of homicide as a heading with subheadings beneath it. Check out the accompanying image. It depicts the difference between murder and manslaughter. You can see that the major subheadings of homicide are murder and manslaughter; each with its own subheadings beneath it, and honestly, many subheadings beneath those, but for today, we’ll focus on the major difference between murder and manslaughter. 

Murder, Killing with Intent

Murder, is maybe exactly what you think it is. Murder is the killing of a person with the actual intent to kill a person. This is broken down into first-degree and second-degree murder. (And in Florida, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, third-degree murder.) First-degree murder occurs when the murder is pre-meditated, or planned out in advance, and then acted upon. Second-degree murder involves no premeditation, but the intent to kill is clear and understood by the aggressor. 

Different Punishments for Different Degrees of Murder

The subheadings of the charge of murder each carry a different level of penalty. In some states the penalty for first-degree murder is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole at a minimum. The maximum penalty is the death sentence. For second-degree murder, the penalty is slightly lessened as it carries no death sentence, but you may face life-time imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

Manslaughter, A Crime of Passion

The difference between murder and manslaughter hinges on the legal phrase “understood by the aggressor.” It is this understanding that separates the charge of murder from the charge of manslaughter. Manslaughter is the killing of another person without the necessary intent to kill, so the outcome for death is not understood by the aggressor. It is a crime of passion. 

The charge of manslaughter, like murder, is broken down into further categories. Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are two further descriptions of manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter, Provoked by the Heat of Passion

Voluntary manslaughter, which often carries a heavy penalty, including up to 25 years in prison in some states, is often accompanied by the phrase “heat of passion.” The idea here is that the attacker was “provoked” to the point of committing a “heat of passion” crime. The word “provoked” in this sense must be as defined by law. A simple poke of a stick is not sufficient to be legally considered “provoked.”

Essentially, the question asked is, “Would a reasonable person be driven to commit the same actions in these same circumstances?” It is the answer to this question that differentiates the charge of manslaughter from murder. Again, it is the intent.

Involuntary Manslaughter: Criminal Negligence and Misdemeanor Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter, like voluntary manslaughter, carries a lesser penalty in many cases than a charge of murder. With involuntary manslaughter, someone is killed due to either negligence or misdemeanor manslaughter. In these cases, the intent to kill did not exist, rather, the deaths were an outcome of the behavior or actions of another person.

Criminal negligence results from a lack of action, as in the case of a father leaving a child in a hot car resulting in death. Misdemeanor manslaughter results when a bystander is killed during the commission of another crime. An example would be a store robbery that results in a heart attack and death from an onlooker. The aggressor in each of these situations did not have the intent to cause death.

Know the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

An arrest and charge of murder or manslaughter is overwhelming, and you may feel defeated before you have begun to defend yourself. If you have committed a crime or have been wrongly charged with a crime you didn’t commit, don’t face these tangled charges without expert legal assistance. You have a right to legal defense.

Call Bartlett Law Offices at  727-712-7502 or visit our Contact Page. Our first consultation is always free, so take the time to ask your questions without worry of additional penalty. We have the experience you need and can trust to provide you with a professional, ethical and knowledgeable defense.

If you’d like to know more about these charges specifically in Florida, check out: and learn about any specific legal term.