Homicide is a term generally used when a person kills someone. Typically, it falls into two basic categories, i.e. manslaughter and murder. This distinction is critical between the two. If you are facing criminal charges for causing the death of a person in California, you need to be aware of this distinction. The difference between murder and manslaughter convictions can mean whether you will spend the rest of your life behind bars or spend less time, with a possibility of gaining parole.
Understanding the differences between manslaughter and murder
To understand the difference between murder & manslaughter, you must try to understand the state of the killer’s mind. Their intentions when killing makes all the difference and also help the court decide the duration of punishment.
What is Murder?
In the state of California, they define murder as killing someone with malicious aforethought. It means the murderer kills someone fully knowing and cognizant of their actions as well as their consequences. Murder is usually committed by the murderer with a conscious disregard for the life or rights of another human(s).
For conviction of a murder, the prosecutor must prove without a shadow of a doubt that the defendant wanted a person dead, made a plan to kill, and executed said plan fully aware of their actions. In California, murder is further broken down into two subcategories;
It is the highest degree of murder, and it requires proof of premeditation and intention to kill. The defendant must have malicious intentions before committing the crime. Several factors can further increase the potential punishment of first-degree murder, like;
- Using explosives or other incendiary or destructive devices to commit murder
- Poisoning someone to death
- Using ammunition designed to penetrate armor
- Torturing a victim before committing murder
Please keep in mind that committing a felony that results in the death of a person(s) will be counted as first-degree murder in the state of California, whether the murder was expected or premeditated or not.
This umbrella term contains all kinds of killings that do not fall under the category of first-degree murder. Premeditation is not a strict requirement in second-degree murder. Instead, the second-degree murder must include a defendant to intentionally commit (or fail to commit) an act dangerous to another human (s). Also, the defendant must know at the time of the act that committing or abstaining from it may end up killing someone. The defendant must have acted or not acted deliberately in a way that proves their disregard for human life.
What is Manslaughter?
Manslaughter involves an unlawful killing of another person(s). However, the homicide is committed without any malice, yet it still involves conscious disregard for human life. For example, killing someone in an accident when driving above the speed limit will count as manslaughter without considering extenuating circumstances.
Manslaughter is either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter involves committing a homicide in the heat of the moment or your own or someone else’s defense. Involuntary manslaughter refers to a homicide committed as a result of an accident, recklessness, or negligence.