What Is the Difference Between Murder & Manslaughter?

You may have heard the terms murder and manslaughter used in criminal law settings, and maybe you or someone you know is facing charges under those titles. Knowing the difference between these two terms can help you understand your options when facing charges so you can make informed decisions. Our Boston criminal defense lawyers at Brad Bailey Law have defended hundreds of clients against charges of murder and manslaughter, and we want to educate our clients with important legal terms. So what is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

Understanding Murder:

First Degree Murder Defined:

Under Massachusetts law, murder is the act of killing another person with malice aforethought (any intent to harm or kill another person) or with extreme cruelty and atrocity. Murder is divided into first and second degrees, which are determined by the jury. First degree murder involves intent to kill, premeditation, and willfulness, and Massachusetts also recognizes felony murder as that which occurs in a federal jurisdiction or during a felony. This would apply in situations where someone dies on federal property or during a robbery, kidnapping, rape, arson attack, or other felony act.

Second Degree Murder Defined:

Second degree murder is the intentional killing of another person without premeditation or planning. This killing results from an act that willfully tries to harm another person or displays an indifference to human life; thus, it still involves malice aforethought. While first degree murder involves intent, willfulness, and planning/premeditation, second degree murder involves intent and willfulness, but no premeditation or planning.

Understanding Manslaughter:

Voluntary Manslaughter Defined:

Voluntary manslaughter is often called a crime of passion, and occurs when a person kills another person after strong provocation. Since this murder involves a heat of passion, the killer must prove that he or she had no time to relax or unwind from the provocation before killing the person. The main difference between voluntary manslaughter and second degree murder is the emotional factor, which often involves uncontrollable rage due to a provocation.

Involuntary Manslaughter Defined:

Involuntary manslaughter describes a killing that occurs due to negligent or reckless actions of the killer. This killing is unintentional and accidental, although cases of extreme recklessness may sometimes be bumped up to a second degree murder charge.

Knowing the difference between murder and manslaughter can help you understand what the charges against you mean. All convictions for killing result in severe penalties, and it is important to get experienced legal help as soon as possible after an arrest. If you are facing charges of murder or manslaughter, our Boston criminal defense attorneys at Brad Bailey Law can help.

Call today at (617) 500-0252 to learn more.

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