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What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?


The criminal justice system often involves a lot of language that can seem confusing to most people, unless they have a legal background. When you hear the terms “murder” and “manslaughter,” they might sound identical, but the two are actually quite different. The primary difference between the two depends on the state of mind when the act was committed.

Defining Murder

To kill a person with “malice aforethought” is how the law generally defines murder. Additionally, there are two types of malice – express malice and implied malice. Express malice occurs when a person meant to kill another individual, whereas implied malice occurs when a person intentionally committed an act they knew posed a danger to others and could result in death.

When a crime involves implied or express malice, it is defined as murder. However, murder can be classified as either first degree or second degree. First-degree murder occurs when an individual purposely commits a crime with premeditation. Second-degree murder occurs when a person intended to kill, but it did not plan it.

Defining Manslaughter

Manslaughter also involves the unlawful killing of a person or persons, though it lacks malice. Like murder, there are two different types of manslaughter – voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person kills someone in the heat of passion, whereas involuntary manslaughter occurs when a killing was unintentional and the result of criminal negligence. For example, if you were in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by drunk driving, resulting in someone else’s death, this would be considered involuntary manslaughter.

Essentially, when a jury examines these types of cases, they must decide if the person who committed the act was doing so under intense emotion or if it was simply premeditated anger. This is why it is critical to hire skilled legal representation to protect your rights and your future.

Violent Crimes Attorney in Chicago

If you are facing manslaughter or murder charges, you should not hesitate to obtain the experienced legal guidance of a criminal defense attorney. The penalties for these crimes are incredibly severe, so you should not attempt to face them on your own or rely on the assistance of a public defender. At the Law Office of Steven Fine, our skilled violent crimes attorney in Chicago is backed by over 20 years of legal experience and a proven track record of success. You can rest assured that your case will be in good hands with us.

Get started on safeguarding your future today and contact our law office at (312) 436-0638 to request a free initial case evaluation. Too much is at stake to settle for any less.