Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person that isn’t considered murder because of a surrounding or mitigating circumstance. Manslaughter is usually the charge of the prosecution when the killer did not plan to kill.
Manslaughter and murder are different when determining the defendant’s state of mind. The defendant state of mind when he kills defines the difference between murder and manslaughter. Murder usually requires malice, premeditation, and planning. Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice, but with conscious disregard to human life or recklessness and/or criminal negligence.
Murder is usually mitigated to manslaughter because of mitigating factors and circumstances that surrounded around the killing.
There are two main types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary.
1) Voluntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is an act of killing that would usually be defined as murder, but the killing was committed in response to an adequate provocation. If there was adequate provocation that resulted in the killing, the criminal charges are reduced from murder to voluntary manslaughter.
Adequate provocation is something that is sufficient to incite a normal person to sudden and intense passion. Courts commonly accept these types of Adequate Provocation:
- Conduct or act sufficient to deprive a reasonable person of self control
- The provocation actually provoked the defendant
- The time between the provocation and the actual killing cannot be long enough for reasonable person to cool off
- The defendant actually never cooled off
2) Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is when a person unintentionally kills another person due to a lack of care. Involuntary manslaughter generally occurs on two occasions:
- Where there is a death attributed to recklessness or criminal negligence
- From an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or a low-level felony
For example, in vehicular manslaughter, a death occurs during a traffic violation such as driving under the influence.
The difference between manslaughter and murder can be subtle. Since there is a great difference in punishment, you should consult a criminal defense attorney who understands your state laws and can help you formulate a defense.