How Do Murder and Manslaughter Differ From Each Other?

prisoner in court

Murder and manslaughter are arguably two of the most tragic crimes. They both result in the loss of human life, however, their differences are significant. If you are being charged with murder or manslaughter in New Jersey, contact a Bergen County, New Jersey criminal defense lawyer for assistance.

How is Murder Defined?

Murder is defined as the unlawful and intentional killing of another human being. A murder conviction will depend on evidence that the killing was done with malicious intent and was premeditated or done with some forethought. It is one of the most serious and severe crimes that a person can commit.

How is Manslaughter Defined?

Manslaughter is defined as the unlawful but unintentional killing of another human being. People who commit manslaughter did end the life of another but it occurred either completely unintentionally or was an action taken with no thought in the heat of the moment. Manslaughter charges are divided into two categories, called voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is a true accident and typically results from criminal negligence or recklessness. An example of this could be a person driving under the influence of alcohol and striking and killing a pedestrian crossing the street. The driver’s criminal act of driving under the influence was the direct cause of the killing but it was not the driver’s intention for their crime to result in someone’s death.

Voluntary manslaughter is sometimes referred to as a crime of passion. This means that a person was provoked by an influx of intense emotions and did not have the opportunity to cool down or collect themselves before the killing took place. An example of this could be if a wife came home to find her husband cheating on her and became enraged with anger and jealousy. Before she could calm down or realize what she was doing, she killed the woman her husband was cheating with. She did not intend to kill and there was no malicious planning.

What is the Main Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

The most significant difference between murder and manslaughter is the intention behind the crime. To be convicted of murder a court must prove that the murder took place, you did the killing, and you intended to end the victim’s life with premeditation or malicious forethought.

To be convicted of manslaughter a court must prove that the killing took place, you caused the killing, and you did not go into the situation with any intent of taking away someone’s life. Intent is one of the only separating factors between the two crimes.

How the two crimes are punished can also differ. While they both will face extensive fines, court fees, restitution, and jail time, murder charges will carry a significantly more severe penalty. New Jersey has abolished the death penalty, however, murder prison sentences are often 30 years to life with no opportunity for parole. It depends on the circumstances of the case, but second-degree manslaughter charges typically include 5 to 10 years in prison.

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