Murder vs. Manslaughter

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Murder vs. Manslaughter

Murder and manslaughter are two similar yet very distinct crimes. They both involve the killing of another human being. However, the difference between them is mainly the defendant’s state of mind during the commission of those crimes. And as a result, their respective degrees of punishment vary dramatically from probation to a lifetime in prison.

What Is "State of Mind"?

State of Mind is also known as the guilty mind set. In a criminal court, state of mind it the mental element of a crime, and it refers to the criminal intent that the defendant had at the time of the crime. It goes to the defendant’s willingness to commit the crime. Some states have a different definition or standards for State of mind.

Is It Murder or Manslaughter?

For most court cases, the jury must answer this question. Despite having varying degrees of murder, most homicides are either second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. For second-degree murder, the defendant’s state of mind is that he was grossly negligent in his behavior, or he contemplated how he was going to kill the victim, or he had a depraved heart when committing his actions.

A homicide is voluntary manslaughter where the defendant intended to kill or harm the victim, but they were provoked into killing the person. For the homicide to be classified as involuntary manslaughter, the defendant did not intend to kill the victim but merely did so as a result of his negligence. This negligence is less than the negligence of second-degree murder, and more in the lines of recklessness.

For example, Russian roulette is considered second-degree murder because the shooter is aware that he can kill the victim when he shoots the gun and that his behavior is grossly negligent even if he did not want to kill the victim. In contrast, vehicular manslaughter is considered manslaughter because the driver did not intend to kill the victim especially if the driver did not see the victim and was driving cautiously under normal driving conditions.

Consulting an Attorney

If you are being charged in a homicide case, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your lawyer will help you determine whether there is a valid case and evidence against you. He will also help you get rid or reduce your charges to eliminate jail time.

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Last Modified: 10-10-2016 10:30 AM PDT

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